Listeria Infection

What is Listeria Infection?

A listeria infection, or listeriosis, occurs when a person eats food contaminated with the bacterium listeria monocytogenes—especially foods like unpasteurized milk products and improperly processed meats. Although some people can get over a listeria infection without treatment, high-risk people can have complications, like meningitis, endocarditis, and encephalitis. High-risk people include women who are pregnant, people with weak immune systems, those with cancer, those with AIDS, alcoholics, diabetics, the elderly, and newborns.

What are the Symptoms of Listeria Infection?

Diarrhea is a common sign of listeriosis, as well as vomiting, nausea, fever, a stiff neck, headaches, confusion, and the loss of balance.

In high-risk persons and those with comprised immune systems, the development of complications—like meningitis and septicemia—and more serious symptoms, like seizures, can occur. Pregnant women may feel flu-like symptoms, and in worse cases, can have a miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth, or infected newborn.

How is Listeria Infection Treated?

If a person has a mild case of listeriosis, then he or she does not need treatment and can let the infection run its course. However, high-risk persons should seek medical attention right away. For instance, pregnant women can often prevent an infection in the fetus if they have a doctor prescribe antibiotics. Newborns can also receive antibiotics for a listeria infection.

Last Reviewed:
October 06, 2016
Last Updated:
September 01, 2017
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