Byo on listeriosis alert

Source: Byo on listeriosis alert – Sunday News March 11, 2018

Dr Gwinji

Dr Gwinji

Vusumuzi Dube, Municipal Reporter
BULAWAYO is on high alert monitoring food that might be linked to listeriosis, to ensure that the ailment does not spread to the city.

Health experts in the city have, however, raised concern since some of the food items are finding their way into the city through illegal means owing to the city’s proximity to neighbouring South Africa, where the outbreak has been reported.

Listeriosis is a rare food-borne disease found in 10 cases per one million people and was first reported in South Africa early this year.

According to South African health officials, polony, russian sausages, viennas, cold meat, ham, sausages, meat spreads, corned meat, salami, pepperoni and most refrigerated uncooked food are the source of the infection.

In an interview with Sunday News, Bulawayo director of health services, Dr Edwin Sibanda said city officials were constantly checking the food items that were coming into the city.

“In terms of the listeriosis outbreak which has been reported in South Africa it’s a very difficult and slow growing organism but we are on the alert for some of these foods.

“We have got within our department officers who have the responsibility to look at food safety, which is one of our major roles.

“We are also working with the Ministry of Health and Child Care which has got a section which is called Port Health which makes sure that the food that comes into the country through the legal routes is wholesome and any food that may be suspicious is confiscated and destroyed.

“Our only problem is the food that is smuggled into the country, which is why we are calling on residents to be more careful and assist us to ensure that the disease does not find its way into the country,” said Dr Sibanda.

The health director said since listeriosis’ symptoms include diarrhoea and fever they were revisiting case definitions and treatment to ensure that these were not related to this food-borne disease.

“Research has shown that listeriosis also presents itself with diarrhoea and fevers so we are working with our laboratories through food testing of these diseases as well as the treating thereof. So people are actually revisiting case definitions and case treatment modalities,” said Dr Sibanda.

Last week, the Government through the Ministry of Health and Child Care, banned the importation of food stuffs linked to the deadly listeriosis from South Africa following reports that processed ready-to-eat meats had been identified as the source of the outbreak.

“Until we are very clear that the outbreak is under control and that the specified food production plants have been certified free of infection, we will avoid allowing any of those products to come into the country,” said the ministry’s permanent secretary, Major-General (Retired) Dr Gerald Gwinji.

Last Sunday‚ South Africa’s Health Minister Mr Aaron Motsoaledi named Enterprises food production plant in Polokwane‚ Limpopo‚ as the confirmed source of the unique strain of listeria‚ which has caused the world’s biggest documented listeriosis outbreak‚ with 948 confirmed cases and 180 deaths as of last week. Signs and symptoms of the disease include diarrhoea, high fever up to 38 degrees, headache, muscle pains and complications such as septicaemia and meningitis.