Getting sick from Cronobacter does not happen often, but infections in infants can be deadly. Cronobacter infections in infants less than 12 months old are often linked to powdered infant formula. If your baby is fed with powdered infant formula, you can take steps to protect your baby from sickness.
Cronobacter sakazakii is a germ found naturally in the environment.
These germs can live in dry foods, such as:
- Powdered infant formula
- Powdered milk
- Herbal teas
Rare but Serious Illness in Infants
Cronobacter infections are rare, but they can be deadly in newborns. Infections in infants usually occur in the first days or weeks of life. About two to four cases are reported to CDC every year, but this figure may not reflect the true number of illnesses. That’s because most hospitals and laboratories are not required to report Cronobacter infections to health departments.
Cronobacter germs can cause a dangerous blood infection (sepsis). They can also make the linings surrounding the brain and spinal cord swell (meningitis).
Infants who are more likely to get sick include:
- Infants 2 months and younger. These infants are most likely to develop meningitis if they get sick from Cronobacter.
- Infants born prematurely.
- Infants with weakened immune systems. Babies with this condition can’t fight germs as well because of illness or medical treatment, such as chemotherapy for cancer.
Cronobacter illness in infants will usually start with a fever and poor feeding, excessive crying, or very low energy. Some infants may also have seizures. You should take an infant with these symptoms to a medical provider as soon as possible.
Cronobacter infection can also be serious for:
- People 65 years and older.
- People who have immune systems weakened due to illnesses or conditions, such as HIV, organ transplants, or cancer.
Powdered formula is not sterile and might have germs in it.
Powdered infant formula can be contaminated in homes or in processing facilities that make it.
In the home:
You can accidentally get Cronobacter in powdered formula after you open the container. Cronobacter can live on surfaces in your home, such as a kitchen counter or sinks, and in water. Cronobacter could get into powdered formula if you place formula lids or scoops on contaminated surfaces and later touch the formula. It can also get into formula if you mix the formula with contaminated water or in a contaminated bottle.
In a processing facility:
Cronobacter can also get into powdered infant formula in a processing facility in these ways:
- If the manufacturer uses contaminated ingredients to make the formula.
- If the formula powder touches a contaminated surface.