Listeriosis is in the news – the South African minister of health today announced that 727 confirmed cases had been identified since early 2017 in South Africa.
I have been getting lots of queries about Listeriosis, so here is a quick guide on what you need to know:
Listeriosis is caused by eating foods contaminated with a bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes.
The bacteria are found in soil and water. The result is that the bacteria can be found in vegetables, meat and dairy products, processed foods and cold-cut meats, unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses (feta, brie, camembert, etc).
Listeriosis does not spread from person to person (except in the case of a pregnancy). It is usually caused by the ingestion of food that is contaminated.
Contaminated food will continue to grow bacteria even if the food is refrigerated. Cooking food thoroughly will kill off any bacteria present.
Signs and symptoms are fairly non-specific – these include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pains and flu-like illness. In severe cases, patients can present with neck stiffness and other CNS symptoms.
Diagnosis is based on history and examination, but will only be confirmed by the culture of the bacteria in blood and cerebrospinal fluid.
Most people will spontaneously clear the infection with no treatment. However, patients considered high-risk should be treated with antibiotics (Ampicillin is the drug of choice). High risk individuals include patients who are elderly, newborn babies, pregnant patients and those with reduced immunity (e.g. HIV, TB, diabetes, organ transplant, cancer patients).
Preventative tips include:
- Do not drink raw milk (unpasteurized) or eat food with unpasteurized milk in them
- Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly under running water before consuming
- Wash all raw meat thoroughly and refrigerate immediately
- If eating left-over food, reheat it thoroughly until it is steaming
- If in doubt, throw it out
- Wash your hands, utensils and counter tops immediately before and after handling food
- Consume ready to eat and perishable foods as soon as possible
- Listeria can contaminate other foods due to spills in your refrigerator. Store food securely and clean your fridge often
If you are in doubt, please consult your usual healthcare provider.
For interests sake, lets look at the recent “outbreak” discovered in USA in March 2016. Part of the investigations included testing frozen vegetables sold in retail stores and found that one particular supplier had products that tested positive for the bacteria. Targeted action resulted in the reduction of the outbreak. Read the article here.
Please feel free to comment or share this if you feel that it may benefit others.
Dr Essack Mitha