Listeria monocytogenes is widespread in natural waters and vegetation, and it can be carried in the intestines of asymptomatic animals and humans. It occurs on all continents except Antarctica.

Pregnant women, the elderly, and those with underlying illnesses such as immunodeficiency, diabetes, cancer, and liver disease are especially susceptible to listeriosis. Epidemic disease has resulted from L. monocytogenes contamination of foods including coleslaw, non-pasteurized milk, pork tongue in jelly, some soft cheeses, and hot dogs. The fact that the organisms can grow in commercially prepared food at refrigerator temperatures has resulted in thousands ofinfections originating from a single food-processing plant.

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