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Listeria South Africa: 7 things you need to know right now

You just heard about the outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa which has been traced to an Enterprise Foods facility in Polokwane and you need to know more about Listeria infection (listeriosis).

Here are seven important things you need to know about Listeria:

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of listeriosis include flu-like symptoms, nausea, diarrhoea, infection of the blood stream, fever ,muscle aches, often preceded by diarrhea. Other symptoms include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. Pregnant women who contract listeriosis are at increased risk for premature birth and stillbirth.

How common is listeriosis?

In South Africa since January 2017, almost 1‚000 people were infected with Listeria and has killed 180 people. Certain people are at increased risk, including pregnant women, newborns, people with AIDS or other conditions that impair immunity, and people with cancer, diabetes, alcoholism or liver or kidney disease.

How does Listeria get into food?

Listeria germs occur naturally in soil and water and can be carried by animals, including those eaten by humans. Listeria is found in many raw foods, including meats and vegetables, soft cheese, polony, vienna,  hot dogs and other processed meats, and smoked seafood. The germs can be killed by cooking or pasteurization.

Image Credit: 123RF/ John Mcnamara

How does one contract listeriosis?

You get it by eating food that’s tainted with Listeria gems. In addition, babies can get the disease if their mothers eat Listeria-contaminated food during pregnancy.

How can I reduce my risk?

Rinse raw vegetables thoroughly under running tap water before eating, and thorough cooking all beef, poultry, and other foods from animal sources. Keep kitchen surfaces clean, and keep uncooked meat and poultry separate from vegetables and from cooked and ready-to-eat foods. Be sure to keep your refrigerator clean – as listeria germs can grow even in refrigerated foods.

What if I eat a food that’s been recalled?

Odds that you will get listeriosis is small even if you eat a food that has been recalled for listeria contamination. If you have no symptoms, don’t worry. People who develop suspicious symptoms within two months of eating a recalled product should alert a doctor if they’re in a high-risk group.

How is listerosis treated?

Given promptly, antibiotics can cure listerosis and prevent a fetus from becoming infected. But bear in mind that even with antibiotic therapy, some Listeria infections prove fatal – especially in older adults and people with serious medical problems.