How dangerous is listeria?

By Susan Brewer, Ph.D., University of Illinois,
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

To the average healthy adult, listeriosis usually manifests itself as a mild case of the flu; however it can be much more serious in the very young and very old, and for those whose immune systems are not operating at maximum capacity.  The most susceptible are unborn babies (because listeria can infect them in the womb, causing still-birth) and newborn babies, especially preemies. Overt listeriosis at birth requires substantial intervention.  One of the problems is that the mother may not even know she has listeria because the symptoms can be very mild.
FDA, 2008. Bad Bug Book. “Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins Handbook.” Listeria monocytogenes.
Kendall, P. 2008.  “Bacterial food-borne illness.”  Cooperative Extension Service. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.  Fact sheet No. 9.300.



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