Protect yourself against listeria

Listeria has broken out in SA. Be safe.

The minister of health, Aaron Motsoaledi, says there has been an outbreak of a food-borne disease in South Africa called listeria.

Listeriosis is a serious but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.

Motsoaledi says the bacteria is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation.

“Animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources.

“Infection with listeria may result in flu-like illness with diarrhoea, including fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness.

“It can also lead to the infection of the blood stream, which is called septicaemia, and meningoencephalitis (infection of the brain),” he says.

Motsoaledi says although anyone can get listeriosis, those at high risk of developing severe disease include newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weak immunity, including those with HIV, diabetes, cancer and chronic liver or kidney disease.

“Tracing from January 1, 2017, to November 29, 2017, a total of 557 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases have been reported from all provinces.

“Most cases have been reported from Gauteng Province (62 per cent) followed by Western Cape (13 per cent, 71/557) and KwaZulu-Natal (seven per cent, 37/557).

“Out of 557 cases, we are certain of the final outcome, discharge or death, in 70 cases. Of these 70 cases, 36 people have died,” he says.

Motsoaledi says while they continue with the investigation, the World Health Organisation has advised on five keys to food safety:

• Keep clean: wash your hands before handling food and during food preparation.

Please don’t get tired of washing your hands, even if it means washing a hundred times a day.

• If you are handling or storing raw food, don’t touch cooked food unless you have thoroughly washed your hands and food preparation utensils. Separate raw from cooked food.

• Cook food thoroughly. Never eat half-cooked or uncooked food, especially meat products.

Food that does not usually need cooking before eating needs to be thoroughly washed with clean running water.

Families with no source of clean running water need to boil their water before domestic use.

• Keep food at safe temperatures.

Food to be kept cold should be refrigerated, and food to be served hot should be served hot.

• Use safe water for domestic use at all times and use pasteurised milk products.

In situations where pasteurisation is not possible, for own domestic consumption, boil the milk prior to use.

Doreen Mokgolo

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