Listeriosis: What you need to know and do

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It remains vital that proper hygiene and food safety protocols should be followed in order to prevent the further spreading of the deadly listeriosis outbreak in South Africa.

This comes after Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Sunday that government has narrowed down the sources of the listeriosis outbreak which resulted in the death of 180 people and the hospitalisation of numerous others. Motsoaledi said the recent outbreak was traced to a facility in Polokwane that produces processed meat products.

The high risk groups for listeriosis are:

Pregnant women
Neonates (first 28 days of life)
Very young infants
Elderly persons > 65 years of age
And anyone with a weakened immune system (due to HIV infection, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, etc.)
Persons in high risk groups should:

Avoid consuming dairy products made of unpasteurised milk; deli meats and ready-to-eat meat products such as sausages, hams, patés and meat spreads, as well as cold-smoked seafood (such as smoked salmon);
Read and carefully follow the shelf life period and storage temperatures indicated on the product label.
Here are five keys to safer food to prevent the spreading of listeriosis:

Wash your hands

Wash your hands before handling food and during food preparation
Wash your hands after going to the toilet
Wash and sanitise all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation
Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests and animals
Separate raw and cooked food

Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods
Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods
Store food in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared foods
Cook thoroughly

Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood
Bring foods like soups and stews to boil. For meat and poultry, make sure that juices are clear
Keep food at safe temperatures

Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours
Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable food
Keep cooked food hot prior to serving
Do not store food too long, even in the refrigerator
Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature
Use safe water and raw materials

Use safe water or treat it to make it safe
Select fresh and wholesome foods
Choose foods processed for safety, such as pasteurised milk
Wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw
Do not use food beyond its expiry date
Symptoms are usually mild and may include fever, myalgia (pain in a muscle or group of muscles), malaise and sometimes nausea or diarrhoea. In at-risk patients, spread of infection to the nervous system can cause meningitis leading to headaches, confusion, stiff neck, loss of balance or convulsions. Bacteraemia may also occur.

If any of these symptoms occur, contact your doctor or visit your nearest clinic or emergency centre immediately.

Source: www.who.int and www.nicd.ac.za

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