GEORGE NEWS - The number of listeriosis infections in the Western Cape area is growing, with more than 100 cases reported to date - second only to Gauteng.
Charlene Lawrence, Western Cape deputy director for Communicable Disease Control, Health Programmes and Facility-based Programmes, told Knysna Plett Herald on Wednesday 7 February that one of the two people from Eden who have succumbed to listeriosis was a 53-year-old woman from George who died in August last year.
The other fatality in October was an 83-year-old man from Knysna.
Six laboratory-confirmed cases have occurred in the Eden District since the outbreak last year.
Largest documented global outbreak
The World Health Organisation said the number of cases in South Africa is the biggest outbreak of the disease on record in the world.
Mossel Bay Advertiser recently reported about an elderly man who miraculously survived the illness in Mossel Bay.
Western Cape Health Department regional spokesperson Nadia Ferreira says since 16 January, a total of 767 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases have been reported in the country, of which 101 were confirmed in the Western Cape.
"The cases are spread across the district and not contained to only one small geographical area," said Ferreira.
The Nelson Mandela Bay area has reported nine laboratory-confirmed cases with one fatality. Ferreira said good hygiene, especially when preparing food, is important to minimise the risk of contracting this disease.
Contact the outbreak response unit or the Centre for Enteric Diseases (for use by healthcare professionals only). Medical / clinical related queries: NICD hotline 082 883 9920.
The Knysna Plett Herald and Mossel Bay Advertiser are sister papers of George Herald.
What is listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a serious disease that can be treated and prevented. The disease is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, which is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation.
Listeriosis is linked to a wide variety of foods, including dairy and meat products, vegetables, fruit, and ready-to-eat products.
Infection with listeria usually results in gastroenteritis with diarrhoea, vomiting and a slight fever. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can get listeriosis. The age groups most affected are neonates (that means the first 28 days of life), comprising 37% of victims, and the age group 15 to 49 accounts for 33%.
Those at high risk
Newborns, the elderly, immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and those with underlying conditions such as HIV, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease.
In persons with weak immunity, listeriosis can lead to meningitis or septicaemia. In pregnant women, listeriosis may result in pregnancy loss (abortion), along with meningitis of their infant.
How does it spread?
Listeriosis is usually spread by eating contaminated food products, most frequently raw or unpasteurised milk and soft cheeses, but also vegetables, processed foods, ready-to-eat meats and smoked fish products.
The listeria bacterium can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby during pregnancy or at the time of birth.
Direct contact with the organism can cause skin lesions. Listeria can survive in normal temperatures associated with refrigeration (4°C).
Signs and symptoms
In the average healthy adult, infection is usually asymptomatic (showing no symptoms), but symptoms may include fever‚ muscle pain‚ restlessness, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhoea.
"If you or somebody you know are showing symptoms you need to get medical help immediately," said Ferreira.
At-risk patients stand the chance of the spread of infection to the nervous system which 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.
Pregnant women may present with mild flu-like illness associated with headache, fever and myalgia. However, infections during pregnancy can lead to premature births, infection of the newborn with permanent disability, and miscarriage or stillbirth.
How to prevent listeriosis
- Practise good basic hygiene.
- Use only pasteurised dairy products.
- Cook raw food such as beef‚ pork or poultry thoroughly.
- Wash your hands before preparing food‚ eating and after going to the toilet.
- Wash and decontaminate kitchen surfaces and utensils regularly.
- Wash raw vegetables and fruits before eating.
- Keep food clean.
- Separate raw and cooked food.
- Cook thoroughly.
- Keep food at safe temperatures.
- Use safe water.
People at high risk of listeriosis should avoid raw or unpasteurised milk‚ dairy products containing unpasteurised milk‚ soft cheeses‚ foods from delicatessen counters (such as prepared salads or cold meats) that have not been heated or reheated adequately and refrigerated pâté.
* Contact the outbreak response unit or the Centre for Enteric Diseases (for use by healthcare professionals only). Medical / clinical related queries: NICD hotline 082 883 9920.
Read previous articles below:
- George woman one of listeriosis fatalities
- 2 literiosis deaths in Eden District
- People urged to rinse food to minimise spread of listeria
- 4 local listeriosis cases confirmed
- Listeriosis not in Garden Route so far
- Johannesburg city on public drive to fight spread of listeriosis
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