PDF Version of this Fact Sheet
Listeriosis is a rare disease. Persons at higher risk for disease include:
Listeria is commonly found in the environment
Listeria is found in dust, soil, water, sewage, and silage, and it is
a known cause of disease in animals. It has also been found in various
meats, vegetables, seafood, and dairy products. Listeria can multiply in
refrigerated food that is contaminated. Pasteurization of dairy
products and proper cooking are usually adequate to kill the bacteria.
In addition, the bacteria can also live in the gastrointestinal tract of
some individuals who are infected, but do not have symptoms.
Listeria is spread by ingestion of contaminated foods, direct contact
with infected animals, or from a pregnant mother to her baby
Infected individuals may spread the bacteria to others for up to several months.
Symptoms can be mild in healthy individuals, but are more severe in those with weakened immune systems
Symptoms may include fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal
symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous
system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of
balance, or convulsions can occur. After exposure, symptoms usually
occur within 3 days to 10 weeks, but most often within 3 weeks.
Pregnant women who become infected generally only develop flu-like
symptoms (fever, tiredness, achiness). However, the infection can cause
premature labor, premature delivery, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
Newborns born to infected mothers can develop listeriosis within one
week of birth (called early-onset) or after several weeks. Infants with
early-onset disease usually develop severe blood infections (sepsis),
pneumonia, or skin rashes. These infants are at highest risk of death.
If you think you have listeriosis, you should see a doctor immediately
Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics
Listeriosis can be prevented
201 W. Preston Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-2399
(410) 767-6500 or 1-877-463-3464