Listeria is a bacteria that can enter our system through contaminated food. There are about 1600 cases per year of illness from Listeria each year in the US. Nine out of 10 people who become ill with the bacteria will be pregnant women, their newborns, persons older than 65 years of age, or adults with weakened immune systems. Most infected people will require in-hospital care and about 1 in 5 persons with the illness will die due to Listeria infection.
For adults with a Listeria infection, the symptoms often are fever, muscle aches, and diarrhea. Sepsis (a life-threatening whole-body inflammation due to an infection with fever and lethargy) and meningitis (infection of the lining over the brain and spinal cord with a fever, miserable headache, stiff neck, and lethargy) are how older adults, adults with a weakened immune system, and newborns present with Listeria infection.
Listeria has been in the Central Ohio news recently due to the issues Jeni's Ice Cream, where the company found that the Dark Chocolate ice cream was contaminated with Listeria. Here is Jeni's Ice Cream recall statement. I applaud Jeni's for being so responsible about this issue! I like them even more now.
So the chances of any of our patients becoming ill with Listeria is quite low. And if you presented to the emergency department with fever, stiff neck, and lethargy, the doctors would find the Listeria while testing for other bacteria also. As a matter of fact, those symptoms would likely be caused by some other bacteria.