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Zimbabwe on WHO listeriosis watch list

by Staff reporter
28 Mar 2018 at 07:23hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE is among the 16 African nations chosen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to provide support for preparedness and response to a possible listeriosis outbreak in Africa.

The disease broke out in neighbouring South Africa and has claimed nearly 200 lives since January.

The 16 buffer countries; Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, have been chosen because they are at risk of an outbreak as they may have imported contaminated food from South Africa.

However, the Zimbabwean Government has assured citizens they are safe from the disease.
Information on the WHO website shows the outbreak, caused by contaminated ready-to-eat meat products, may have been exported to two West African countries and 14 members of the South African Development Community (Sadc).

"South-African health authorities recently declared the source of the outbreak as a factory in Polokwane, South Africa. This prompted a national and international recall of the food products.

"However, in light of the potentially long incubation period of listeriosis and the challenges relating to large scale nationwide recall processes, further cases are likely to occur," says WHO.

"WHO's Health Emergencies programme, the Global Outbreak alert and Response Network (GOARN) and the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) are working with the 16 priority countries to improve their ability to prepare for, detect and respond to potential outbreaks."
Recently, the Government of Zimbabwe banned importation of food stuffs linked to listeriosis in South-Africa after reports that processed ready-to-eat meat including polony and sausages had been identified as the source of the outbreak.

Two weeks ago, the Ministry's Permanent Secretary, Major General (Retired) Dr Gerald Gwinji assured Zimbabweans that they were safe from listeriosis and said appropriate measures had been put in place at the Beitbridge border post to avoid importation of processed foods into the country.

"We have therefore concentrated on Beitbridge border post and we've put up the necessary measures with the health ministry and the veterinary department to carry out the necessary searches and confiscate any foods or materials that are suspicious," said Dr Gwinji.

"The action that South Africa has taken has actually drastically reduced the risk of another outbreak in the country or anywhere else."

South Africa is one of the biggest cold meat exporters on the continent and countries such as Mozambique and Botswana are dependent on meat imports from the neighbouring country.

Listeriosis is food poisoning caused by eating foods contaminated with the listeria monocytogenes bacterium. In pregnant women, the infection can result in miscarriage, premature delivery, serious infection of the newborn or stillbirth. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy.

The disease affects mainly pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and adults with compromised immune systems.

The most common foods to be contaminated are raw or unpasteurised milk as well as soft cheeses, or vegetables, processed foods and ready-to-eat meats and smoked fish products.

Listeria can survive in fridge temperatures of 4°C. The infection incubates for between three and 70 days. In healthy adults, symptoms are usually mild and may include fever and sometimes nausea or diarrhoea.

In high-risk patients, the spread of the infection to the nervous system can cause meningitis leading to headaches and confusion, a stiff neck and convulsions. Bacteraemia — when the bacteria is found in the blood — may also occur.

Source - chronicle