CDC estimates Listeria is the third leading cause of death from food poisoning in the United States. An estimated 1,600 people get sick from Listeria each year, and about 260 die. Older adults are at particular risk – more than half of all Listeria infections occur in people 65 and older.
As people age, their immune system and organs aren’t as able to recognize and rid the body of harmful germs, including ones that cause food poisoning. Many older adults also live with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, and are taking medicine that can weaken the immune system. Also, stomach acid decreases as people get older, and stomach acid plays an important role in killing germs and reducing the risk of illness.