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Health Alert: What is Listeriosis?

8 December 2017 HEALTH & WELLNESS


By Nomali Cele

On Wednesday, 6 December, David O’Sullivan interviewed South African Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to discuss the recent outbreak of Listeriosis in South Africa. According to Dr Motsoaledi, Listeriosis is nothing new in South Africa as it was first diagnosed 40 years ago with occurrences since. However, what is very different this time around is that there have been over 500 cases in a short period. And, for the first tie, time, there have been fatalities. 36 people have died from Listeriosis in South Africa since the outbreak.

What is Listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a foodborne infection. When diagnosed early, the infection can be treated. But it’s dangerous for endangered groups: Listeriosis infection tends to severe in the elderly and has been found to lead to foetus loss in pregnant women.

How do you get Listeriosis?

Listeria is caused by ingesting food that’s been contaminated by the Listeria bacteria. Listeria is a common bacteria as it’s in water, soil and unpasteurised (raw) milk. Unpasteurised milk is a big carrier of listeriosis so milk and milk products such as soft cheeses are the most concerning. Deli meat is also a food group to watch.

Who can get Listeriosis?

Because the bacteria that causes Listeriosis is so common, we are all at risk of contracting the infection but those most vulnerable to infection include newborn children, the elderly, pregnant women and individuals with immune systems compromised, by diseases such as HIV, cancer and diabetes.

What are the symptoms of Listeriosis?

Symptoms include headaches fever and achy muscled. Sometimes symptoms include nausea, vomiting fever and diarrhoea.

How do you prevent Listeriosis?

The current outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa is a reminder of basic food preparations rules. At this time it’s important to wash your hands with soap and water before handling food and to not handle cooked and uncooked food together. Don’t consume unpasteurised milk. Keep raw meat away from your vegetables and cook both well. On the occasion you’re eating raw vegetables, wash them well. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap some more.

If you suspect you have symptoms of Listeriosis, visit your GP immediately for a blood test, which is the best way to tell if you have the infection. If diagnosed, Listeriosis is treated with a course of antibiotics in severe cases or in patients who are high risk. If you are an otherwise healthy individual, it’s unlikely that your doctor will prescribe the antibiotics as the infection usually clears out.

Dr Aaron Motsoaledi discusses the Listeriosis outbreak in Soth Africa on Breakfast with David


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