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What Is Listeriosis?

A foodborne bacterial infection, listeriosis is normally spread by eating deli meats that have not been processed properly or by consuming unpasteurized milk, cheese or other dairy products. Though it rarely causes complications for healthy people, listeriosis can be fatal for those with weak immune systems, including unborn and newborn babies.

While pregnant women can pass listeriosis on to their unborn babies, it is usually contracted when food or drink contaminated with listeria monocytogenes is consumed. Common culprits include:

  • Deli meats and hot dogs
  • Improperly refrigerated meat spreads and smoked seafood
  • Unpasteurized milk and dairy products
  • Vegetables grown in infected soil


When infected with listeriosis, symptoms may not present for up to four weeks after exposure to contaminated food or drink. Once symptoms begin, they may include:

  • Flu-like problems — Fatigue, fever, muscle aches and headache are common symptoms, particularly for pregnant women with listeriosis.
  • Neurologic — Though an infection, listeriosis symptoms may include those typically associated with neurologic disorders. These symptoms include unexplained confusion, balance problems and convulsions.

Treatment Options

For most cases of listeriosis, symptoms are mild enough to require no treatment, as the body’s immune system fights off the infection without assistance. For more serious infections, treatment is:

  • Antibiotics — Over the course of treatment, the antibiotic rids the body of infection, allowing a return to full health. Pregnant women with listeriosis ought to be particularly careful to receive treatment quickly, as this ensures the best chance at preventing a miscarriage or keeping their unborn babies from becoming infected.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of listeriosis, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat listeriosis.