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Listeria monocytogenes Infection (cont.)

Listeriosis Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms and signs of listeriosis can vary widely, and the clinical presentation often depends largely on the underlying state of health and age of the affected individual. Most healthy individuals who become infected with Listeria monocytogenes experience no symptoms at all, though rarely some may develop a mild self-limiting gastrointestinal illness. However, it is the high-risk patient populations who generally go on to develop the more severe form of the disease. There can be a substantial delay between the time of exposure to Listeria monocytogenes and the development of symptoms (the incubation period), varying anywhere from several days to two to three months.

  • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, and muscle aches are common symptoms associated with listeriosis. Often, these symptoms will resolve spontaneously after seven to 10 days.
  • If the infection spreads to the central nervous system, individuals may experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or seizures. These symptoms may be seen with meningitis, encephalitis, or brain abscess.
  • Infected pregnant women may experience symptoms of a mild flu-like illness. However, the unborn child is at risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or sometimes a life-threatening infection after birth (pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis, for example).
  • Listeriosis during pregnancy usually occurs during the third trimester.
  • In the United States, approximately 27% of all cases of listeriosis occur in pregnant women.
  • Rarely, infection with Listeria monocytogenes can lead to localized infections of the skin, heart, joint, or bone.
  • Death from listeriosis generally occurs from a disseminated infection in the high-risk individuals.
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