LESOTHO has not recorded any cases of the deadly listeriosis since its outbreak in South Africa where it has so far claimed the lives of 81 people since last year.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the listeriosis crisis in South Africa as the worst outbreak ever reported worldwide. To date, 767 cases of listeriosis have been confirmed in South Africa.
Listeriosis is a serious bacterial infection caused by the rod-shaped bacteria listeria monocytogenes. It is suffered when food contaminated with the micro-organism is eaten.
These bacteria are found in soil, water and vegetation. Listeriosis can also occur in some animals, including poultry and cattle. Raw milk and foods made from raw milk can also carry the bacteria.
Last month, Lesotho’s Ministry of Health issued a statement advising all Basotho to exercise caution when they travel to neighbouring South Africa.
This week, the Ministry of Health’s International Health Regulations Manager, Khotso Mahomo, said despite an increased flow of people moving to and from South Africa during the Christmas and New Year holidays, no cases of listeriosis were reported in Lesotho.
“However, we continue to advise people to take precautionary measures on the consumption of milk and milk products such as unpasteurised milk and soft cheeses; ensure they eat well cleaned vegetables; avoid readily dried meat and other ready to eat meats; smoked fish products; and wash their hands with soap,” Mr Mahomo said.
He further explained that all people who have travelled to affected places, such as South Africa, or who may have the signs and symptoms indicated should immediately seek health services from their nearest health facility. They should also provide clear travel and consumption history.
“All health personnel throughout the country have been equipped with necessary information and tools to help with the early detection of cases.We have also embarked on community awareness campaigns through different platforms, including the media, to continue reminding people about this life-threatening disease and how they can prevent it,” Mr Mahomo said.
He further explained that listeriosis was usually diagnosed when a bacterial culture grows Listeria monocytogenes from a body tissue or fluid, such as blood, spinal fluid, or the placenta.
“However, meningitis or septicaemia as a result of listeria can be life-threatening and should be treated with intravenous antibiotics,” he said.
The infection grows between three and 70 days with a case-fatality rate of around 20-30 percent in recent outbreaks and sporadic cases.
In pregnant women, Mr Mahomo said listeriosis can result in a miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, meningitis in the new-born, leading to permanent disability.
He further explained that the spread of the infection in high-risk patients to the nervous system could cause meningitis, leading to headaches and confusion, a stiff neck and convulsions or septicaemia.
“The signs and symptoms in healthy adults are usually mild and may include fever, nausea, muscle pain, restlessness and mild to severe infectious diarrhoea (gastroenteritis).”
As the International Health Regulations team, Mr Mahomo said they are also working on recommendations that would see only certified food imports being allowed into the country to boost preventive mechanisms.