Listeriosis Disease: Transmission and Prevention

Listeriosis is a foodborne disease that primarily affects pregnant women, the elderly, and the immunosuppressed.
Listeriosis Disease: Transmission and Prevention

Last update: 05 January, 2021

This disease, listeriosis, was the biggest breaking news article in 2019 when it affected millions of people in Spain. Researchers discovered that meat products caused this outbreak. In addition, in the European Union, listeriosis disease has been on an upward trend since 2008, with higher mortality rates than other foodborne pathogens.

According to the European Food Safety Authority, it could be an emerging disease in Europe and be under-diagnosed. In fact, in Spain, it didn’t enter the catalog of notifiable diseases until 2015, but the number of hospitalizations has been increasing considerably. Therefore, it’s important to know how this bacterium is transmitted and how to prevent it.

What is listeriosis disease?

The bacterium Listeria monocytogenes causes the listeriosis disease. It’s a gram-positive bacteria that can survive in the presence and absence of oxygen. Its ability to grow at temperatures as low as 0°C allows it to multiply at normal refrigeration temperatures, which increases its ability to evade the usual control measures on food processing.

People generally get listeriosis after eating contaminated food. Another key point is that it mainly affects pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

How is listeriosis transmitted?

This bacterium has an animal reservoir and is widely distributed in the environment. It can contaminate a wide variety of food or beverages, as well as produce cross-contamination. It’s one of the foodborne diseases with the highest mortality rates, and long-term problems in relation to the sequelae it can cause.

Sausages and hot dogs were the main reason for the outbreaks of listeria infections in the 1990s. Now, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables usually spread listeria outbreaks. In addition, researchers have tracked recent outbreaks to soft cheeses, celery, sprouts, melon, and ice cream.

People with invasive listeriosis usually report symptoms 1 to 4 weeks after eating the contaminated food. However, symptoms are primarily the same as those that are presented with gastroenteritis, but, in risk groups, meningitis, meningoencephalitis, or septicemia may also occur.

How to prevent listeriosis?

To avoid contracting this disease, it’s very important to have food safety measures with the foods we just mentioned. You should be especially careful with people at higher risk, such as pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

Fresh cheese and other soft cheeses

We recommend you make sure the label says: ‘Made with pasteurized milk’. Risk groups should avoid eating soft cheeses, such as fresh cheese, white cheese, Panela, Brie, Camembert, blue cheeses or feta cheese, unless the label says they’re made with pasteurized milk.

Some cheeses.

Raw bean sprouts

Recommendations for risk groups:

  • Don’t eat raw or undercooked bean sprouts (including alfalfa sprouts, clover, radish, and Chinese bean sprouts)
  • Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Complete cooking kills harmful bacteria.
  • When you eat at restaurants, request that the chef avoids adding raw bean sprouts to your food. Additionally, if you buy a sandwich, salad, or Asian food, make sure it doesn’t contain raw bean sprouts.


General recommendations:

  • Eat freshly cut melon or refrigerate it.
  • Keep the cut melon at a temperature of 5º C (41º F), or lower, for a maximum of 7 days.
  • Discard melon portions that you left at room temperature for more than 4 hours.

Sausages, pâtés, processed meats and cold cuts

General recommendations:

  • Make sure the liquid from sausages and meat processing packages doesn’t come into contact with other foods, or with food preparation utensils or surfaces. In addition, wash your hands after handling these foods.
  • Store these products in the refrigerator safely. Store opened packages for up to 1 week.

Recommendations for risk groups:

  • Avoid eating dry or fermented sausages, cold cuts, processed meats, cold cuts and sausages.
  • Don’t eat refrigerated pâtés or spreads.
Some cold meats.

Smoked fish and seafood

These include smoked fish and seafood such as salmon, trout, white fish, cod, tuna or mackerel.

Recommendations for risk groups:

  • Don’t eat smoked seafood refrigerated unless it’s in a can, non-perishable or has been cooked in a stew.

Good food hygiene measures are essential to avoid contracting foodborne diseases. In other words, you can easily avoid this particular disease, listeriosis, just by taking simple precautions! In conclusion, stay alert and eat well!

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Original article: Listeriosis, ¿cómo se transmite y cómo prevenirla? — Mejor con Salud (

  • Centros para el control y la prevención de enfermedades (CDC)
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  • Madjunkov, M., Chaudhry, S. & Ito, S. (2017).Listeriosis during pregnancy.Arch Gynecol Obstet. 296: 143.