Focus on Listeriosis

Recent revelations by the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) of South Africa that two food processing plants in Polokwane and Germiston have been identified as being the sources of a recent outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa has once again brought the attention of players in the health sector within the SADC region.

By Setfree N Mafukidze (RGN)

The relevance of the new findings to Zimbabwe can not be ignored as it is common knowledge that Zimbabwe imports some processed food products from South Africa particularly the cold meat range.

This article seeks to enlighten readers on the latest Listeria outbreak in   a bid to prevent spread of the disease beyond levels difficult to manage.

Listeriosis is a disease that is caused by the bacteria Listeria there are two types of listeria bacteria namely listeria monocytogenes and listeria ivanoli. Listeria  bacteria commonly lives in water, dust,animal waste and soil.

Listeria commonly causes food poisoning and the bacteria thrives well in low temperatures in refrigerators,freezing has no effect on the bacteria as it can still thrive in the frozen environment.

People who are healthy will most likely not be affected by an infection by listeria while on the other hand those who are immuno compromised such as people living with HIV are at a higher risk of falling ill due to infection. However pregnant mothers,old people and very young ones are also at a greater risk of contracting the disease.

The most common sources of listeria bacteria are unpasteurized milk and dairy products made from such milk, processed meats such as polony, salami,ham etc have also been identified as sources of the bacteria as well as raw vegetables.Consuming food contaminated by Listeria  can either take a few days or a couple of months to manifest after the initial infection by the bacteria. After infection symptoms  of the presence of listeriosis may include diarrhea, nausea (the urge to vomit),fever and muscle aches. If the listeria bacteria spreads to the central nervous system it can be of more undesirable consequences leading to headaches, confusion,loss of balance, convulsions and neck stiffness.

Listeriosis in its mild state may not require much treatment but severe or complicated Listeriosis may require treatment with prescribed antibiotics.

Prevention of listeriosis is no different  from the prevention of other diarrheal diseases commonly found in Zimbabwe such as Typhoid, Cholera. Proper hand washing leads as a key method to prevent the spread and occurrence of listeriosis, hands should be thoroughly washed with warm soapy water before using them to consume food,after handling meat or poultry. All kitchen utensils and vegetables should be thoroughly washed under running water to get rid of bacteria.When cooking meat products they must be well cooked not underdone to kill all listeria bacteria that may be present.

The prevention of most communicable diseases Listeriosis included is hygiene based. The Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Health and Child Care has taken effective steps to prevent  Listeriosis by banning importation of processed meats from South Africa which as indicated earlier are the current source of listeria bacteria.

Let’s all help prevent any new cases of Listeria contamination,our will to prevent it will keep us safe and healthy.

Remember to spread the message to your relatives ,friends and neighbours by sharing this article it might save lives.

Setfree N Mafukidze is a Health Promoter and Registered General Nurse

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