What is Listeria? What is listeriosis?
Listeria is a rare but dangerous bacteria according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Listeriosis is a potentially life-threatening infection you can get if you consume food contaminated with the bacteria.
How common is listeriosis?
About 1,600 people get listeriosis in the United States every year. Some groups are more susceptible than others.
How dangerous is Listeria?
About 1 in 5 people who develop an invasive Listeria infection die, according to the CDC. An invasive infection means the bacteria has spread beyond the gut.
Adults 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems: Listeria infections can be serious for these groups and can lead to sepsis or meningitis.
Newborns: Listeria infection can be serious in newborns, causing death in about 3% of cases.
Pregnant women: Though the illness is usually mild in the mother, Listeria infection is a serious concern for the unborn baby. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or newborn death, leading to loss of fetus in about 20% of cases.
All others: People who are not in the vulnerable groups listed above do not typically get sick from Listeria infections.
Which foods can get contaminated?
These foods are the most likely to cause infection, according to the CDC.
Queso fresco and other soft cheeses
Hot dogs, pates, lunch meats, and cold cuts
Raw (unpasteurized) milk
Listeria infection symptoms
The symptoms of invasive Listeria infections differ depending on whether the patient is pregnant.
Pregnant women: Pregnant women may experience fever, fatigue and muscle aches. Though the infection is relatively mild, you should seek medical attention due to the risk for the baby.
People other than pregnant women: In addition to the flu-like symptoms experienced by pregnant women, other patients may experience a headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions.
How to prevent Listeria infection
Everyone should follow these tips to lower the risk of infection:
Vulnerable groups (pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems) should follow these extra tips:
What should I do if I ate contaminated food?
If you ate food that has been recalled (or has otherwise caused Listeria concerns) within the past two months and you feel sick, seek medical care. This is especially important if you are in the vulnerable groups listed above.
If you do not feel sick, most experts believe you don't need to do anything except throw the contaminated food out.
MORE FOOD RECALL INFORMATION