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News Room

Listeriosis Outbreak In SA- Will You Be The Next Victim?

Melissa Cohen
2017-12-12
An outbreak of the food borne disease, Listeriosis has hit South Africa. There are 557 reported cases and 36 deaths. We investigate.
On December 5, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that there is an outbreak of the food borne disease, Listeriosis. This comes after 557 reported cases of this disease this year, with 36 of them ending in death. This is the first time that there have been so many reported cases of Listeriosis. In previous year, there have been between 60 and 80 confirm cases. We breakdown what this disease is and how you can avoid being a victim...
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What Is Listeriosis? 

According to Modsoaledi, "Listeriosis is a serious, but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes. "
This bacteria is found in contaminated water, soil and vegetation. Fresh produce and animal products may be contaminated from these sources.
"In July 2017, doctors from neonatal units in Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Academic hospitals alerted the NICD about unusually high number of babies with Listeriosis. This triggered a review of all cases diagnosed in both public and private hospitals," explains the Minister.
Anyone can be infected by this disease, however it is more prevalent in the following cases:
  • Pregnant women;
  • Young babies;
  • People with a weak immunity;
  • The elderly.

Listeriosis Breeding Grounds

This disease has spread across the country, however the majority of cases was reported in Gauteng. Gauteng had 345 cases, the Western Cape had 71 cases, Kwa-Zulu Natal had 37 cases. The other cases were reportedly spread across the other six provinces. According to Modsoaledi, "the age groups that are most affected are neonates, that means the first 28 days of life (37%) . As well as the age group between 15 to 49 years (33%). These two groups comprise 70 per cent of all cases." This particular outbreak is being investigated. The department however, believes that this particular bout was spread through the contamination of a particular food item that is consumed by all socio-economic sectors. Here are the four sources where the Listeriosis bacterium breeds:
  • Directly at origin e.g. farm;
  • Food processing plant;
  • Retail;
  • Food preparation at home.

Signs And Symptoms

Listeriosis presents itself in many different ways. Here are some of the symptoms patients may be presented with:
  • Flu-like symptoms;
  • Diarrhoea;
  • Fever;
  • Body pains;
  • Vomiting;
  • Weakness;
  • Septicemia;
  • Meningitis.
In order for to be diagnosed with Listeriosis, doctors need to perform a blood test or draw spinal fluid. Once this has been done, the patient must go on antibiotics or an IV drip immediately. Once the patient is on a course of antibiotics, there should be a full recovery within seven days. The incubation period of Listeriosis can range from 3 to 70 days, with an average of three weeks.

Preventative Measures 

The World Health Organisation has advised citizens to follow these steps in order to prevent this disease:
  1. Keep clean- wash your hands on a regular basis and when you are handling food;
  2. Separate raw from cooked food- don't touch cooked food unless you have washed your hands thoroughly;
  3. Cook food properly- never eat food that hasn't been cooked properly. Rather overcook food than under cook it;
  4. Keep refrigerated- ensure that food is kept at a safe temperature and make sure that if food is meant to be served home, that it is served hot;
  5. Use safe water for domestic used and don't drink unpasteurized milk products.
 
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