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Listeriosis: the facts
6 April 2018

Listeriosis has dominated news headlines in the past few months, with 189 deaths and almost a thousand cases reported. In March 2018, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi recalled a number of food products suspected to be possibly contaminated.

Listeriosis is still a danger and the University urges students and staff to remain vigilant.

Foodborne Listeriosis is one of the most serious and severe foodborne diseases. It is caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes. It is a relatively rare disease with 0.1 to 10 cases per 1 million people per year depending on the countries and regions of the world. Although the number of cases of Listeriosis is small, the high rate of death associated with the infection makes it a significant public health concern.

Key facts

  • Listeriosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
  • Listeria monocytogenes is widely distributed in nature. It can be found in soil, water, vegetation and the faeces of some animals, and therefore it can contaminate foods.
  • Eating contaminated food with high numbers of Listeria monocytogenes is the cause of the infection.
  • Listeria monocytogenes can grow to significant numbers in food even at refrigeration temperatures when given sufficient time.
  • Ready-to-eat food can become contaminated during processing and the bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels during distribution and storage.
  • High risk foods include deli meat and ready-to-eat meat products (such as cooked, cured and/or fermented meats and sausages); cold smoked fishery products; meat spread (pâté); dairy products (including soft cheese, unpasteurised milk and ice cream); and prepared salads (including coleslaw and bean sprouts); as well as fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Due to the long incubation period, it is challenging to identify a food product as the actual source of the infection.
  • Infection can be transmitted between humans, notably from pregnant women to unborn babies.
  • Pregnant women, the elderly or individuals with a weakened immune system, such as people with immuno-compromised status due to HIV/AIDS, leukaemia, cancer, kidney transplant and steroid therapy, are at greatest risk of severe listeriosis and should avoid high risk foods.

Everyone, and especially people in high risk groups should:

  • Avoid consuming dairy products made of unpasteurised milk; deli meats and ready-to-eat meat products;
  • Respect the shelf-life and storage temperature written on labels of ready-to-eat foods to ensure that bacteria potentially present in these foods, does not multiply to dangerously high numbers; and
  • Cook food before eating, which is an effective way to kill the bacteria.

Prevention

Listeria monocytogenes in food is killed by pasteurisation and cooking.

In general, guidance on the prevention of Listeriosis includes practicing safe food handling and following these five rules:

  1. Wash your hands at least 5 times a day
  2. Eat from clean and reputable food outlets
  3. Keep all food-handling surfaces clean
  4. Cold food must be kept cold until consumption
  5. Warm food must be properly cooked or warmed

 Treatment

Listeriosis can be treated if diagnosed early. Antibiotics are used to treat severe symptoms such as meningitis. When infection occurs during pregnancy, prompt administration of antibiotics prevents infection of the foetus or new-born.

What can I do if I suspect I might have listeriosis?

Listeriosis is treatable if detected early. Get medical attention at one of the following campus medical facilities:

Name of  campus

Building

Contact number

Hatfield

SHS Building on Roper Street

012 420 2500

Mamelodi

 

Education Building

012 842 3724

Onderstepoort

Arnold Theiler Building

012 529 8243

Groenkloof

Letlotlo Building Level 2

012 420 5233

Prinshof

Tswelopele Building 

 

012 310 3051

Doctors Days

 

Hatfield 

Mamelodi

Onderstepoort

Groenkloof 

Prinshof

Monday

GP - 10:00 - 15:00

No doctor

GP - 11:00 - 13:00

GP - 11:00 - 13:00

Clinic closed

Tuesday

GP - 10:00 - 14:00

Clinic closed 

No doctor

No doctor

No doctor

Wednesday

Optometrist - 08:30 - 13:00 Eye screening

No doctor

Clinic closed 

No doctor

No doctor

Thursday

Dietician - on appointment

GP: 08:30 - 12:30

No doctor

No doctor

Clinic closed

GP: 11:00 - 13:00

Friday

 

No doctor

Clinic closed

Clinic closed

No doctor

No doctor

Note

There are no doctors available at the clinics during school holidays, while the clinics are closed during weekends and public holidays. Doctors’ hours change every month in Mamelodi. 

Emergencies

Contact Security Services at 012 420 2310. For more information about clinic services call 012 420 2500; email [email protected].

Source: http://www.up.ac.za/student-health-services

Source for article: World Health Organisation website

 

- Author Department of University Relations
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Last edited by Primarashni GowerEdit
High risk foods include ready-to-eat meat products