PERMANENT Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Major General, Gerald Gwinji has warned members of the public against buying processed foods following a Listeriosis outbreak which has terrorised neighboring South Africa.
By Michael Gwarisa
The listeria outbreak which was noticed around mid-January this year has according to the South African health department killed not less than 160 people while 800 others have been hospitalised.
In a statement, Major General Gwinji said Zimbabwe was at high risk of getting the diseases through the borders owing to the massive imports and the country receives from South Africa, processed foods being amongst them.
“Indeed there is a reported outbreak of listeriosis going on in South Africa and actually started on January, 13. The total number of confirmed cases is standing at 802 at the moment, 164 people are reported to have died and 43 percent of these are children less than month.
“What makes this outbreak significant is that we do import quite a significant amount of some of the food items particular cold processed foods into Zimbabwe from South Africa. They have identified a specific company called Enterprise Tigre brands, which really makes quite a lot of these foods,” said General Gwinji.
Listeriosis is a rare foodborne disease found in 10 cases per 1 million people is spread from consumption of foods that are contaminated by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. The bacteri also survives in refrigeration and thrives and reproduce. These high risk foods include ready-to-eat meat products such as cooked, cured and/or fermented meats, and sausages, soft cheeses and cold smoked fishery products and dairy products made of unpasteurized milk. The disease can also be spread from one person who is sick to others by sharing food or through contact.
However, outbreak of the disease which is being experienced in South Africa is still confined to that country and has not spread to Zimbabwe.
“What we have done as a country is tighten our food surveillance at borders, in terms of such products coming ij from South Africa. In interim we have alerted our boaders to be on alert. We encourage customers as they go out there to pay particular attention from this particular company.
“ And locally we discourage the mixing of such foods with other as the bacteria can be transmitted from food type to another.”
And locally we discourage the mixing of such foods with other as the bacteria can be transmitted from food type to another.”
When one is infected, the disease takes a few days to weeks generally up to 2 weeks to start showing to those affected. Pregnant women, infants, the elderly and those with suppressed immune system are at risk of getting the disease. Signs and symptoms of the disease are: Diarrhoea, High fever>38 degrees, Headache, Myalgia (muscle pain), High mortality rate (20%–30%) and Complications such as septicaemia and meningitis.
According to the ministry of health, people can avoid contracting the diseases by practising good personal hygiene, washing hands at all times before eating and handling foods or after using the toilet. The following are measures that the Ministry of Health and Child Care has taken:
Cross border collaboration and sharing of information on disease outbreak with our neighbour is being strengthened. International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 prohibits trade restriction due disease outbreaks.
Monitoring of refrigerated ready to eat foods coming into the country at the border posts to make sure that they are not coming from the identified brands and source
Inspection of food outlets and companies in at risk areas and border districts
Temperature monitoring of travellers from risky areas at ports of entry at border posts and airports
Strict hygiene control measures of the environment where food is manufactured and kept though inspection of premises and factories
Meanwhile people should desist from carrying ready to eat foods such as sausages, polony, Viennas, ham, meat spread, corned meat, salami and pepperoni from the identified source of the disease outbreak into the country. Ministry of Health and Child Care staff at the borders will be monitoring this to make sure that the disease is not introduced into the country.