Listeria meningitis is a type of bacterial meningitis that is a serious complication of a listeria infection. Without prompt treatment, it can quickly become life threatening. After recovering from meningitis, some people are left with permanent disabilities.
Meningitis involves inflammation and swelling of the protective membranes, called meninges, that surround the brain and spinal cord. This can happen for many reasons, including injury and infection.
Listeria infection, also called listeriosis, is a rare disease caused by the bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. According to the
We’ll overview what causes listeria meningitis to occur, how to treat it, prevention, and more.
Other types of meningitis
There are several types of meningitis, each with its own cause and some distinct symptoms. According to the
The full list includes:
- bacterial meningitis
- viral meningitis
- fungal meningitis
- parasitic meningitis
- amebic meningitis
- noninfectious meningitis
Listeriosis doesn’t usually develop in otherwise healthy people. A mild form of infection is called noninvasive listeriosis. This may cause a low grade fever and a bout of diarrhea.
Invasive listeriosis is a far more severe form of infection.
Here are those found
- pregnant people
- people in treatment for cancer
- people with compromised immune systems
- older adults
Symptoms usually start to develop within a few days to a few weeks after exposure. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the incubation period can last
Meningitis means there’s inflammation of the fluid and membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord. A
Symptoms in adults
Symptoms of a listeria infection can start gradually or come on suddenly (acute).
According to the CDC,
- fever or chills
- stiff neck
- muscle aches or joint pain
- decreased alertness
- confusion or altered mental state
If a listeria infection progresses to bacterial meningitis, core symptoms are similar.
- nausea and vomiting
- light sensitivity
Those who recover from bacterial meningitis brought on by a listeria infection can be left with permanent health problems.
Lasting effects from the disease can include:
- hearing loss
- vision problems
- brain damage
- mental impairment
The CDC reports pregnant people are
While the CDC states pregnant women are at a higher risk of listeriosis, they often have a
During pregnancy, listeria meningitis can lead to:
Listeriosis during pregnancy leads to death of the fetus in
Symptoms in newborns and babies
Symptoms in newborns and babies can be more difficult to spot than those in adults.
- inactivity or lethargy
- irritability or excessive crying
- lack of appetite
- irregular reflexes
- skin rash
- bulging fontanel (soft spot on a baby’s head)
Bacterial meningitis can also cause:
Additional possible complications of listeriosis include:
Many forms of meningitis, including bacterial meningitis, are contagious. The main mode of infectious meningitis transmission is through the air or bodily fluids.
Listeria infection can spread from person to person, but the main route of transmission is contaminated food. Listeria monocytogenes is quite common in the environment.
The bacteria can live in:
- animal feces
- decaying vegetation
Here are foods most often associated with listeriosis:
- raw sprouts and other raw vegetables
- unpasteurized dairy products
- soft cheeses
- deli meats and hot dogs
- smoked seafood
- prepackaged salads
Listeria monocytogenes is a little different from other bacteria that cause foodborne diseases. It can thrive despite refrigeration. This bacteria is still likely to be found in refrigerated foods with a long shelf life and in uncooked foods. This means you have to be extra careful regarding potential contamination.
Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to the best outcome. Prompt care can help prevent your listeria infection from becoming listeria meningitis.
Your doctor will probably want to test your blood or spinal fluid to identify the source of the illness.
If necessary, treatment for listeria meningitis may also include:
- intravenous fluid
- pain medication
- supplemental oxygen, if you have trouble breathing
Listeriosis is rare. It affects about
Currently, there’s no vaccine to prevent listeriosis or listeria meningitis. However,
- Set your refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or lower and your freezer at 0°F (-18°C) or lower.
- Refrigerate leftovers in a shallow, covered container within 2 hours. Discard if not eaten within 3 to 4 days.
- Avoid consuming unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk.
- Heat deli meats and hot dogs until they’re steaming hot.
- Keep raw and cooked foods apart. Don’t let potentially contaminated foods touch other foods in the refrigerator, on the cutting board, or anywhere else in the kitchen.
- Use a proper handwashing technique before and after handling food.
- Wash cutting boards, utensils, and kitchen countertops thoroughly.
If you have a known exposure or have symptoms, get in touch with a doctor right away. Sometimes, a precautionary course of antibiotic therapy can be started before getting test results.
The Food and Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) of the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) seek to alert the public of any potential or confirmed food and product contaminations.
It’s important to be on the lookout for warnings and recalls to keep you, and your loved ones, safe. Consider signing up for updates or bookmarking these pages:
Listeriosis is a rare foodborne illness. It mainly affects older adults, people with weakened immune systems, or those who are pregnant. In pregnancy, it can be transmitted and cause severe harm to the fetus.
Untreated listeria infection can lead to serious complications, including a life threatening type of bacterial meningitis. Early diagnosis and a course of antibiotics offer the best chance at a good outcome for listeria infection. If you have signs or symptoms of listeriosis or meningitis, seek medical help immediately.
You can lower your risk of getting listeriosis by avoiding certain foods, and practicing proper food handling.
There’s no vaccine to prevent listeriosis or listeria meningitis. But in addition to discussing your risk factors, you can speak to your doctor about vaccines for other types of bacterial meningitis, or any troubling symptoms you may be experiencing.