Listeria Infections RISE in South Africa

What is listeriosis?

Listeria infections rise in South Africa. Listeriosis is food poisoning caused by eating foods contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) bacterium. In pregnant women, it is reported that the infection can result in miscarriage, premature delivery, serious infection of the new-born baby, or even stillbirth.

Listeriosis affects mainly pregnant women, new-born babies, the elderly, and adults with impaired immune systems. Infection with listeria bacteria results in mild to severe gastroenteritis (infectious diarrhoea). In people with weak immune systems it can lead to meningitis. Healthy adults and children sometimes are infected with L. monocytogenes, but rarely become seriously ill. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy.

Listeriosis affects mainly pregnant women

It was reported that the institute is trying to establish what the source of the infection is so that measures can be put in place to prevent further cases. Mothers who have been infected with the bacteria are being interviewed and the institute is also engaging with the food service quality industry.

Causes of listeriosis

  • The bacteria (L. monocytogenes) is found in soil and water.
  • Processed foods, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts, can be contaminated after processing.
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk can be contaminated.
  • Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil or from the manure used as fertilizer.
  • Animals can carry the bacteria and can contaminate meats and dairy products.

What are the symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Sometimes nausea or diarrhoea.

If the infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions (irregular movements of the body) can occur.Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness.

There is no vaccine that can prevent infection. The main preventive measure is good basic hygiene, and proper, safe food preparation and storage. Additional measures include thoroughly cooking raw foods from animal sources, such as beef, pork or poultry. Raw fruit and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before eating.

The main preventive measure is good basic hygiene“I’m a hygiene freak. I’m like obsessive-compulsive when it comes to washing your hands.”Kelly Clarkson