Johannesburg – The city of Johannesburg says it has activated outbreak response teams across the city to "help educate the public" about preventing the spread of listeriosis, a disease that has so far claimed more than 30 lives
MMC for Health and Social Development, Dr. Mpho Phalatse, called on residents to inform themselves about the types of foods most likely to contain listeria and what preventive measures to take.
He said that pregnant women and the elderly with compromised immunity were particularly at risk.
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Phalatse said it was important for people to always check that labels on dairy products such as soft cheese and cheese ice cream and yogurt say "made with pasteurized milk", or avoid eating these products.
The city's director of public health, Dr. Baskie Desai, said that while listeriosis was a laboratory diagnosis, his unit should work closely with the national health department while continuing to educate the community about what they should do to avoid getting infected.
"We have activated our environmental health outbreak units to oversee all of our outlets and also help educate communities on what steps to take to stay safe.It is important to tell our people to always take precautionary measures and avoid certain foods that can cause listeriosis if they are not prepared accordingly. "
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that 36 people had succumbed to the disease, which can be treated with antibiotics.
The bacterium is found in soil, water and vegetation.
Of the 557 cases reported, the majority comes from Gauteng.
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Of the 345 cases reported in Gauteng, 172 were reported in the City of Johannesburg.
Listeriosis is a foodborne disease that is associated with eating a wide variety of foods contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, including dairy products and agricultural products, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as ready-to-eat products.
After infection, the incubation period varies nd may be between 3-70 days.
Up to 10% of people can be asymptomatic carriers. This figure may be higher in slaughterhouses and laboratory workers who work with listeria monocytogenes cultures.
In the average adult, the infection is usually asymptomatic.
Symptoms are usually mild and may include fever, muscle pain, restlessness and, sometimes, nausea or diarrhea.
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In patients at risk, the spread of infection to the nervous system can cause meningitis that can cause headaches, confusion, stiff neck, loss of balance or seizures. The presence of bacteria in the blood, known as bacteremia, can also occur.
The disease primarily affects pregnant women and their newborns, adults 65 years of age or older, and people with weakened immune systems.
The City said its action plan will focus on:
1. The main preventive measure is to always ensure that good basic hygiene is followed. This includes:
– Use only of pasteurized dairy products;
– Complete cooking of raw foods from animal sources, such as beef, pork or poultry;
– Wash hands before preparing food, before eating and after going to the toilet;
– Washing and decontamination of cooking surfaces and utensils regularly, in particular after preparing meats, poultry and raw eggs, including industrial kitchens;
– Wash raw vegetables and fruits before eating.
2. Five keys to food safety:
– Keep food clean;
– Separate raw and cooked foods;
– Cook thoroughly;
– Keep food at safe temperatures;
– Use safe and raw water; materials.
3. People at high risk of listeriosis should avoid the following foods:
– Raw or unpasteurized milk, or dairy products containing unpasteurized milk;
– Soft cheeses (for example, feta, brie, goat cheese);
– Food from delicatessen counters (eg, prepared salads, sausages) that have not been heated / reheated properly;
– Refrigerated patés.
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