According to Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, the most recent listeriosis outbreak was narrowed down to Enterprise’s Polokwane facility. Operations have been suspended at this facility, as well as a Germiston facility. Listeria has also been traced to a Rainbow Chicken facility in the Free State. Testing at this facility is being conducted to uncover which sequence type of listeria has contaminated the food products there.
The revelation of the source announced on Sunday, sent consumers into a flat spin. It didn’t help when we saw thousands of compromised packages of processed foods being thrown out of local supermarkets.
With so many unanswered questions about the Listeriosis outbreak, we spoke to a General Practitioner about how listeria is spread and how contagious it is. Here’s what Dr Swasti Singh had to say:
1. How long after consuming tainted products will the first symptoms show up?
“The bacteria can live in your system for 1-6 weeks. You might only see the first symptoms after 3 weeks of being infected. It is important to note that people who are immunocompromised like HIV/Aids patients, elderly people, pregnant women and children are affected by Listeriosis.”
2. How do you differentiate between mild and severe listeriosis?
“With mild symptoms, the patient will have mild nausea, a mild fever and it might slowly progress to diarrhea. This depends on whether you are immunocompromised. If you’re a child, pregnant woman, an elderly person or HIV positive then your symptoms might be different. These symptoms present with fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of balance and lead to seizures or convulsions, and if not treated in time could lead to death. As a healthy adult, you may not get as sick.”
3. How do you know when you need to seek medical attention?
“If you have a fever which lasts for more than 24 hours, with a temperature above 39 degrees, then go to your nearest emergency room or clinic immediately. Other serious symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting that is so severe you are unable to tolerate any liquids and headaches that last for more than 24 hours. It goes without saying that a child or immunocompromised people should seek help if they have any of these symptoms.”
4. How contagious is it from person to person?
“It is not contagious, you cannot catch it from someone who is a carrier, although it is transferable from mother to fetus. It is very important to practice clean hygiene, always wash your hands after using the toilet or before touching and preparing food.”
5. What test do you need to confirm that you have the bacteria?
“Blood cultures will confirm if you have the bacteria in your blood, this is a confirmatory test used to check if you are a carrier. For patients who present with cerebral symptoms, a lumbar puncture test needs to be carried out to determine true results.”
It is advised that those who have the following symptoms seek medical attention:
- Vomiting (which is sometimes preceded by diarrhea)
- General weakness
- Stiff neck
When caught early, listeria can be cured within seven days. Those with compromised immune systems, infants, elderly and pregnant women require urgent medical. This involves either being treated with fluids through an IV drip or a course of antibiotics.
The majority of people infected by listeria recover within seven days. However, those with a compromised immune system, older adults, infants or pregnant women require urgent medical care – treatment involves either a course of antibiotics or fluids through an IV drip.