Listeria Monocytogenes

Listeriosis Symptoms and Treatment

Listeria monocytogenes causes listeriosis, which can lead to meningitis or encephalitis. It is a food-borne illness commonly associated with dairy products, raw meats, some raw vegetables, and raw or smoked fish. Listeriosis outbreaks happen sporadically and cannot be traced easily.

Symptoms of Listeriosis

According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of listeriosis are fever and muscle aches. Victims may also experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea.

If the infection extends into the nervous system, victims may develop meningitis or encephalitis, which can have symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions in addition to the fever and muscle aches. Pregnant women can experience only flu-like symptoms, or they can have a miscarriage or stillbirth. Listeriosis in a pregnant woman can also lead to premature delivery or infection of the newborn.

Treatment of Listeriosis

The treatment for listeriosis is antibiotics. There is no specific first aid for listeriosis because of the delayed onset of symptoms after infection. First aid will be specific to the victim's symptoms (nausea & vomiting, headache, seizures, etc.).

Population at Risk for Listeriosis

The CDC says 2500 people contract listeriosis every year in the United States. About 500 victims die of the disease. Those most at risk include (from the CDC):

  • Pregnant women - They are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. About one-third of listeriosis cases happen during pregnancy.
  • Newborns - Newborns rather than the pregnant women themselves suffer the serious effects of infection in pregnancy.
  • Persons with weakened immune systems
  • Persons with cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease
  • Persons with AIDS - They are almost 300 times more likely to get listeriosis than people with normal immune systems.
  • Persons who take glucocorticosteroid medications
  • The elderly

Eating Food Contaminated with Listeria Monocytogenes

If you have eaten food that was later identified to have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and you are in one of the risk groups identified above, contact your physician if you become ill within 2 months of eating the contaminated food.

Anyone who has eaten food that was later identified to have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes should make a note of that fact. If, within two months of eating the food, you have an illness severe enough to require medical attention, be sure to mention the food you ate and the FDA information about any recalls.


"Listeriosis." 12 Oct 2005. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC. 09 Dec 2006

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