Listeria and People with Weakened Immune Systems

Listeria is a harmful germ that can be in some food.

Illustration of the Listeria pathogen

It rarely affects people who have a strong immune system. Most young, healthy adults won’t get sick from Listeria.

Illustration of a person laying in a hospital bed with an IV.

But it can cause serious illness and even death if you have a weakened immune system. This is because a weakened immune system isn’t as able to recognize and get rid of harmful germs like Listeria.

75% of people who get sick from Listeria have health conditions that weaken their immune system, such as cancer and heart or kidney disease.

People with weakened immune systems who get Listeria almost always have to be hospitalized, and, sadly, 1 in 6 die.

You likely have a weakened immune system if:

  • A healthcare provider told you so.
  • You have a health condition like cancer, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, alcoholism, or HIV.
  • You take medicine like immunosuppressants or steroids.

You can take steps to prevent getting Listeria.

Illustration of meat with a thermometer in it and some cheese.

Choose safer food options. See foods not to eat and foods to choose instead.

Check for recalled foods contaminated with Listeria:

Illustration of a healthcare provider on the phone.

Call a healthcare provider right away if you have a fever and feel more tired and achy than normal. You may also have a headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or seizures. Early treatment can help save your life.

Printable Factsheet
Prevent getting sick from Listeria: Weakened Immunity

Print this 2-page factsheet about foods not to eat and foods to choose instead to prevent getting sick from Listeria.