Thirty-six people have died in South Africa from an outbreak of the food-borne disease listeriosis, the country’s Department of Health said on Tuesday.
Listeriosis is a serious but rare infection, mainly caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria listeria monocytogenes which is found in soil, water and vegetation. It is usually present in raw milk and other dairy products.
People usually contract it through animal products and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Listeria can thrive in cold temperatures and the only way to kill these bacteria is cooking and pasteurisation.
Symptoms of listeriosis
The disease causes flu-like symptoms and can lead to nausea, diarrhoea, infection of the bloodstream and brain.
Risk factors of listeria infection
Pregnant women, the elderly or individuals with a weakened immune system, i.e. people in immuno-compromised status due to HIV/Aids, leukaemia, cancer, kidney transplant and steroid therapy, are at greatest risk of severe listeriosis.
How to diagnose Listeriosis
A blood test for listeria. In some cases, it may be necessary to get a sample of spinal fluid or urine.
Treatment for listeriosis
Listeriosis treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms; mild listeriosis usually goes away on its own and severe symptoms require oral antibiotics.
How to prevent Listeriosis
Listeriosis can be best prevented by eating hot, cooked foods, washing hands and raw vegetables thoroughly and by avoiding raw, uncooked, non-pasteurised dairy products.