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Listeriosis: What you need to know and do

It remains vital that proper hygiene and food safety protocols should be followed in order to prevent the further spreading of the deadly listeriosis outbreak in South Africa.

This comes after Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Sunday that government has narrowed down the sources of the listeriosis outbreak which resulted in the death of 180 people and the hospitalisation of numerous others. Motsoaledi said the recent outbreak was traced to a facility in Polokwane that produces processed meat products.

The high risk groups for listeriosis are:

  • Pregnant women
  • Neonates (first 28 days of life)
  • Very young infants
  • Elderly persons > 65 years of age
  • And anyone with a weakened immune system (due to HIV infection, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, etc.)

Persons in high risk groups should:

  • Avoid consuming dairy products made of unpasteurised milk; deli meats and ready-to-eat meat products such as sausages, hams, patés and meat spreads, as well as cold-smoked seafood (such as smoked salmon);
  • Read and carefully follow the shelf life period and storage temperatures indicated on the product label.

Here are five keys to safer food to prevent the spreading of listeriosis:

Wash your hands

  • Wash your hands before handling food and during food preparation
  • Wash your hands after going to the toilet
  • Wash and sanitise all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation
  • Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests and animals

Separate raw and cooked food

  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods
  • Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods
  • Store food in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared foods

Cook thoroughly

  • Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood
  • Bring foods like soups and stews to boil. For meat and poultry, make sure that juices are clear

Keep food at safe temperatures

  • Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours
  • Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable food
  • Keep cooked food hot prior to serving
  • Do not store food too long, even in the refrigerator
  • Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature

Use safe water and raw materials

  • Use safe water or treat it to make it safe
  • Select fresh and wholesome foods
  • Choose foods processed for safety, such as pasteurised milk
  • Wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw
  • Do not use food beyond its expiry date 

Symptoms are usually mild and may include fever, myalgia (pain in a muscle or group of muscles), malaise and sometimes nausea or diarrhoea. In at-risk patients, spread of infection to the nervous system can cause meningitis leading to headaches, confusion, stiff neck, loss of balance or convulsions. Bacteraemia may also occur.

If any of these symptoms occur, contact your doctor or visit your nearest clinic or emergency centre immediately.

Source: and

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