Practicing proper hygiene and observing food safety protocols are essential to help prevent the spread of the deadly listeriosis outbreak which has already claimed the lives of 180 South Africans.
On Sunday, Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the recent outbreak was traced to a facility in Polokwane that produces processed meat products. A number of major retailers have withdrawn house-brand cold meats from their shelves after Enterprise Foods and Tiger Brands were implicated in spreading the bacterium.
Emergency medical care provider ER24 has compiled a practical list of information to help the public safeguard themselves against infection.
The people most at risk from contracting listeriosis:
Neonates (first 28 days of life)
Very young infants
Elderly persons older than 65 years of age
Anyone with a weakened immune system (due to HIV infection, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, etc.)
If you fall into the high risk groups above you should:
Avoid consuming dairy products made of unpasteurised milk; deli meats and ready to eat products such as sausages hams 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.
Wash your hands before handling food 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 insects, pests and animals.
Separate raw meat, poultry and sea food from other foods. Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods. Store in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared foods.
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 two hours. Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable food. Keep cooked food prior to serving. Do not store food too long, even in the refrigerator.
Use water and raw materials to make it safe, select whole some foods processed for safety, such as pasteurised milk. Wash vegetables, especially if eaten raw. Do not use food beyond its expiry date.
Symptoms are usually mild and may include fever, myalgia (pain in muscle or group of muscles), malaise and sometimes nausea and 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 occur.
If you experience any of the symptoms contact your doctor or visit your nearest clinic or emergency centre immediately.