Public Health Fact Sheet
What is Listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by the germ Listeria monocytogenes. People usually become ill with Listeriosis after eating contaminated food. The disease primarily affects pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and adults with weakened immune systems.
How is Listeriosis spread?
Listeria bacteria are widely distributed in soil and water which can contaminate certain foods including unpasteurized milk and cheese, deli meats, poultry and eggs. A pregnant woman can transmit the illness to her unborn baby or newborn.
How is Listeriosis treated?
Listeriosis can be treated with antibiotics. A diagnosis is made when the bacteria is found in the blood, spinal fluid, or amniotic fluid.
How can Listeriosis be prevented?
Thoroughly cook raw meats. Wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating. Thoroughly reheat ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli-style meats before eating. Avoid unpasteurized milk and cheeses, and raw fish. Observe all package expiration dates. Avoid cross-contamination of ready-to-eat food with raw foods. Refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours. Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.
Symptoms of Listeriosis
- Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea, headache
- If the central nervous system is infected there may be sudden onset of intense headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions