Listeriosis: Frequently asked questions

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Since Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s announcement of the listeriosis outbreak on December 5, 2017, more than 500 cases of listeriosis have been reported. We answer the most crucial questions about the health issue here.

What is Listeriosis?

Listeriosis is an infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium called Listeria Monocytogenes.

Where is Listeria found? 

Listeria is found in soil and water. This means that fruits, vegetables, and even animals, including poultry and cattle, can carry the bacterium.

What is the source of Listeriosis in South Africa? 

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi revealed on Sunday that an Enterprise Factory in Polokwane and Germiston was the source of listeriosis. The factory produces meat products that are supplied to retail giants such as Shoprite, Pick ‘n Pay, and Spar. The stores have begun pulling some of the company’s products off the shelves.

A person suffering from listeriosis might experience the following symptoms – fever, headaches, muscle-ache, stiff neck, diarrhea, nausea, or convulsions.

What is the incubation period?

The incubation period for Listeriosis is three to 70 days.

Who is mostly at risk?

Anyone with a weak immune system due to health complications, elderly people over 60, pregnant women, and newborn babies are mostly at risk.

What type of foods contain Listeriosis?

Ready-to-eat meals, hot dogs, unpasteurized milk, foods made from raw milk, meat spreads, refrigerated smoked seafood, raw sprouts, eggs, fruits, raw vegetables, cold meats, poultry, chicken, mayonnaise, processed meat, and ice-cream.

How can Listeriosis be treated?

Depending on the severity of the infection, some cases don’t require treatment, but more serious infections can be treated with antibiotics.

How can Listeriosis be prevented?

– Rinse food thoroughly under running water before eating.

– Listeria is killed by cooking, so thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as meat, poultry, or seafood to a safe internal temperature.

– Eat perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible.

– Wash hands, knives, countertops, and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.

– Keep uncooked meats, poultry, and seafood separate from vegetables, fruits, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods.

– Avoid ready-to-eat meals.

How many people have died from Listeriosis in South Africa?

Listeriosis has claimed the lives of at least 180 people in South Africa, with more than 500 cases reported, mostly in Gauteng.