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Listeriosis: All you need to know

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Medical experts say listeriosis, a food-borne disease which has reared in South Africa, is preventable. Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced yesterday morning at a press briefing, that 36 people had died in Gauteng province from listeriosis. Listerisois is a serious disease but can be treated with antibiotic if it’s detected.

Speaking to VOC, pathologist Dr Juno Thomas, the head of the centre for enteric diseases at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said the disease comes from a listeria bacteria found in soil, water and vegetation. It does occur in some animals, which includes including poultry and cattle. Raw milks and foods made from raw milk can also carry the bacteria.

“When humans come into contact with foods infected with listeria they contract Listeriosis. There are different sources from which the products can be contaminated by such as the farms food processing plants. It depends on the environment, what fertilize was used and how the animals are cared for,” she explained.

“Other factors contributing to it are where food was collected from, the retail stores and of cause the food preparation at home. Then the processing of the food has to be looked at too as other foods might be infected.”

The bacterium 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

“We can’t advise which foods should be avoided as yet, as not enough tests have been done. The only thing we can recommend is that people follow the universal hygiene guide. Keeping raw and cooked food separate, those listeners in rural areas to avoid drinking drink raw (unpasteurized) milk.

She also warned consumers to be careful of foods that contain raw milk.

Consumers should practise good hygiene in the kitchen by washing the hands regularly, and make sure cutting boards, cutlery and crockery and everything else are cleaned properly.

“We need to properly cook animal foods such as meat, poultry and fish. I’d advice to rather overcook than take the risk and undercook, and consumers also need to watch the product’s expiry dates of perishable foods. Always ensure the water is safe and ensure that it’s clean running water. Uncooked foods must be washed properly,” she advised.

Anyone is at risk of contract the disease; however people who are generally healthy are unlikely to contract Listeriosis.

“Those who could easily contract it are new-borns’ the elderly‚ pregnant women‚ persons with weak immunity‚ such as those with HIV‚ diabetes‚ cancer‚ and chronic liver, kidney disease or any people who are weak and really sickly,” said Thomas.

The disease is treatable with antibiotics and the symptoms of people affected with the disease generally suffer from flu-like illness‚ such as; diarrhoea accompanied by a high fever‚ general body pains‚ vomiting, weakness neck stiffness and confusion.

“This leads to the infection of the bloodstream‚ which is called septiceamia and meningoencephalitis‚ which is an infection of the brain. If anyone feels who is not in the best of health and are suffering from any of these symptoms I’d advise them to go see a health care facility,” she concluded. VOC


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