Increase education efforts on Listeriosis – COSATU

Federation says limited attention is being given to the needed publicity drive

COSATU urges the Department of Health to increase their education efforts on the Listeriosis disease on the ground 

23 January 2018

COSATU notes with concern the limited attention given to educate our people, particularly in the rural areas, on the listeria outbreak. We appreciate the work that Minister Motsoaledi has done to pay attention to this disease and keeping the nation informed but we believe that the department and other stakeholders to be roped in to assist in the awareness campaign. Listeriosis is a serious but treatable food poison that is caused by the bacterium listeria monocytogenes and is mainly found in soil, water and vegetation.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID) 81 people have already died from the disease. The number of confirmed cases is now 767 in what is called the biggest listeriosis outbreak in South Africa although this is still disputed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

The number of cases are expected to increase as more cases of the disease are reported at health care facilities across the country. Those that are vulnerable to the listeriosis disease include newborn babies who have accounted for 40% of the deaths in cases of Listeriosis, the elderly, pregnant women (who are 20 times more likely to contract the disease), people with a weak immunity such as HIV, diabetes cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease.

COSATU is deeply concerned by the low levels of publicity given to the listeriosis outbreak given its recent fatal consequences. We are even more concerned about vulnerable groups with limited access to information on the disease. We therefore urge the department of health to increase awareness on the Listeriosis outbreak with regular television, radio, print and social media advertisements. The Department of health is also urged to feature the topic of Listeriosis in any health engagement moving forward up until cases of Listeriosis are significantly reduced.

COSATU is of the opinion that a disease as preventable and treatable as Listeriosis should not result in the death of persons; one death as a result of Listeriosis is already one death too many. Symptoms of the disease include flue like symptoms such as fever, general body pain, vomiting as well as weakness. Listeriosis is preventable by applying the following measure:

- Separate raw meat from other foods, ensure that the preparation of meat is done separately from other foods.

- Cook food thoroughly especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.

- Keep food at safe temperatures; do not leave food at room temperature for more than two hours, refrigerate all cooked and perishable food.

- Use safe water or treat the water to make sure that it is safe and wash fruit and vegetables, especially if eaten raw.     

Members of the public are urged to visit a nearby medical facility if they experience any of the above mentioned symptoms. 

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National spokesperson, COSATU, 23 January 2018