What Happens If You Get Listeria?

Reviewed on 11/4/2020

What Is Listeria?

Listeria (listeriosis) is a potentially serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, among others. It is usually not serious in otherwise healthy people.
Listeria (listeriosis) is a potentially serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, among others. It is usually not serious in otherwise healthy people.

Listeria (listeriosis) is a potentially serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes

In otherwise healthy people, Listeria is usually not serious but it can be dangerous in pregnant women. A pregnant woman can also pass Listeria to the unborn baby, who can have severe illness and even die.

What Are Symptoms of Listeria?

Symptoms of Listeria (listeriosis) vary depending on which part of the body is affected.

Symptoms of Listeria infection in the brain and spinal cord include:

Symptoms of Listeria infection in the bloodstream include:

Symptoms of Listeria infection in the digestive system include:

In pregnant women, symptoms of Listeria infection may include:

What Causes Listeria?

Listeria infection (listeriosis) is most often caused by eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

If Listeria infection occurs during pregnancy, the bacteria can spread to the baby through the placenta.

People at higher risk of getting very sick from Listeria include:

  • Newborns
  • Older people
  • People with compromised immune systems, such as people who have AIDS, cancer, an organ transplant or stem cell transplant, or who take immunosuppressive medications 
  • People who have diabetes or another serious medical condition

SLIDESHOW

Bacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments See Slideshow

How Is Listeria Diagnosed?

Tests to diagnose Listeria (listeriosis) include:

What Is the Treatment for Listeria?

Healthy people with Listeria infection (listeriosis) don’t usually need treatment and the illness goes away in about 2 days. 

Pregnant women, newborns, and people with serious infections are treated with antibiotics.

What Are Complications of Listeria?

Complications of Listeria (listeriosis) include: 

How Do You Prevent Listeria?

Listeria (listeriosis) infection may be prevented by following food safety guidelines, such as:

  • Do not consume unpasteurized milk and cheese or foods made with them
  • Thoroughly wash produce before eating 
  • Keep the refrigerator colder than 40° F (4.4° C) and the freezer below 0° F (-18° C)
  • Cook meat and seafood until well done
  • Cook eggs until the yolk is firm
  • Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after contact with raw food

Pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should avoid foods such as:

  • Raw milk
  • Soft cheeses 
  • Hot dogs
  • Deli meats
  • Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads
  • Smoked seafood (such as lox)

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Reviewed on 11/4/2020
References