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​​City activates Outbreak Response Teams to fight spread of Listeriosis

The City of Joburg has activated Outbreak Response Teams across all regions to help educate the public on how to prevent the spread of Listeriosis, following an announcement by the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. 
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), South Africa is currently experiencing an increase in the number of Listeriosis cases, with 557 cases reported since 01 January 2017. Of the 345 cases reported in Gauteng, 172 were reported from the City of Johannesburg, with 8% of these cases resulting in death.

Listeriosis is a foodborne illness that is associated with eating a wide variety of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogens, including dairy products and produce, fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as ready-to-eat products.

After infection, the incubation period varies and can be between 3 – 70 days (median 3 weeks). Up to 10% of people may be asymptomatic carriers. This figure may be higher in abattoir and laboratory workers who work with Listeria monocytogenes cultures. In the average healthy adult, infection is usually asymptomatic.

Symptoms are usually mild and may include fever, muscle pain, restlessness and sometimes nausea or diarrhoea. In at-risk patients, the spread of infection to the nervous system can cause meningitis leading to headaches, confusion, stiff neck, loss of balance or convulsions. The presence of bacteria in the blood, also known as bacteraemia, may also occur.

The disease primarily affects pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems.

MMC for Health and Social Development, Dr Mpho Phalatse, has called on all residents to educate themselves on the types of foods that are most likely to contain Listeria and which preventative measures to take towards their health, more especially pregnant women, the elderly and individuals with compromised immunity.

Phalatse said it was important for people to always check that the labels from dairy products such as soft cheese, ice cream and yogurt label say “made with pasteurized milk” or otherwise avoid eating these products.

Director of Public Health in the City of Joburg, Dr Baskie Desai said while Listeriosis was a laboratory diagnosis, his unit would work closely with the National Health Department while continuing to educate the community on what steps they should take to avoid getting infected. “We have activated our environmental health outbreak units to monitor all our food outlets and also assist in educating communities on what steps to take to remain safe. It is important to tell our people to always take precautionary measures and to avoid certain foods that might cause Listeriosis if not prepared accordingly.”

The action plan will focus on the following key messages:

1. The main preventive measure is to always ensure that good basic hygiene is followed. This includes:

• Using only pasteurized dairy products;
• Thoroughly cooking raw foods from animal sources, such as beef, pork or poultry;
• Washing your hands before preparing food, before eating and after going to the toilet;
• Washing and decontamination of kitchen surfaces and utensils regularly, particularly after preparing raw meat, poultry and eggs, including industrial kitchens;
• Washing raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating.

2. Five Keys To Food Safety:

• Keep food clean;
• Separate raw and cooked food;
• Cook thoroughly;
• Keep food at safe temperatures;
• Use safe water and raw materials.

3. Those at high risk of Listeriosis should avoid the following foods:

• Raw or unpasteurized milk, or dairy products that contain unpasteurized milk;
• Soft cheeses (e.g. feta, goat, brie);
• Foods from delicatessen counters (e.g. prepared salads, cold meats) that have not been heated/reheated adequately;
• Refrigerated pâtés.

For more information contact:

Mr Dominic Mahlangu
Office of MMC for Health and Social Development
0827517791 or 0812303299