With the outbreak of listeriosis on everyone’s minds, you might be wondering what listeriosis symptoms you should be looking out for.
However, before you call the paramedics over a slight tummy ache, here’s more information on the disease: what it is, symptoms and how to prevent being infected.
What is listeriosis?
According to the National Institute For Communicable Diseases (NICD), listeriosis is a serious bacterial infection.
It can contaminate a wide variety of food types, including meat and meat products, dairy products (unpasteurised and pasteurised), fresh and frozen produce (fruits, vegetables and sprouts) and ready-to-eat products.
This coupled with the fact that it can take up to 70 days for patients to show any symptoms, makes tracing the source of the listeriosis a huge challenge for health authorities.
Important facts about listeriosis
The NICD issued a press statement highlighting these important facts:
- Listeria cannot be spread from person to person.
- Listeria infection follows consumption of contaminated food, or is transmitted from a pregnant mother to her unborn foetus.
- Only a small group of the population are at risk of severe illness due to Listeria infections. This group includes pregnant women, babies under the age of one month, people over the age of 65, and anyone with a weakened immune system (including people who have HIV, those with cancer, people who have kidney or liver diseases, those with diabetes, and people taking certain medications that suppress the immune system – such as corticosteroids or chemotherapy).
- Pregnant women are an important high-risk group, as they may transmit the infection to the unborn child. Meningitis and blood infections are the important severe forms of listeriosis.
If you are in good health, you won’t get sick from eating food containing listeria.
If you do get ill, you’ll have the same symptoms associated with a bad tummy bug, so you’ll have a fever, stomach ache, body aches, nausea and diarrhoea. This usually goes away on its own.
However, it could result in severe illnesses including meningitis, bacteria in the blood, and pregnancy associated complications.
How you can prevent listeriosis:
The NCID recommends that you:
- Consume foods where preparation renders food safe from bacterial contamination, such as pasteurised dairy products or canned vegetables.
- Avoid eating food that has expired or has not been stored correctly or cooked thoroughly.
- Ensure that meat, poultry, eggs and seafood are properly cooked before consumption.
- Store and handle raw meat, poultry and seafood separately from other foods in the home, to prevent cross-contamination of other foodstuffs.
- Refrigerating and reheating foods correctly.
- Washing fresh fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
- Heat ready-to-eat processed meat and poultry products, such as sausages, viennas, polony, smoked products, and other ‘cold meats’ should be cooked were possible.
- Pregnant women and other persons at risk of serious disease should avoid eating soft cheeses.
If you need more information, you can visit the NCID website or call the NICD Hotline on 082 883 9920.