WHO warns Nigeria, 15 other African countries of a listeriosis outbreak

Listeriosis Outbreak – Nigeria and 15 other African countries have been warned by the World Health Organisation of a listeriosis outbreak that started in South Africa in 2017, confirming its support for their response and preparedness to combat the disease.

Other African countries warned are; Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Listeria is caused by a bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes. It causes severe illness, fever, muscle pain, meningitis, severe sepsis and sometimes resulting in lifelong damage and death.

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Listeria can be found everywhere, and its primary route of transmission is via the oral route after ingestion of contaminated food products

The WHO reports that about 200 South Africans have died from listeriosis as a result of consumption of contaminated ready-to-eat meat products widely consumed in the country and may also have been exported to Nigeria and other West African countries including 14 members of the South African Development Community.

The origin of the outbreak has been traced to a factory in Polokwane by the South African health authorities.

This has prompted both national and international recall of the food products.
However, considering the potentially long incubation period of listeriosis and the complications associated with large-scale nationwide, international-wide recall processes, further cases are likely to occur.

Whole genome sequencing a novel biotechnological tool has been used to identify and isolate the implicated strain of the Listeria bacteria, it has also shown the link between the contaminated products, the implicated manufacturing plant and strains of Listeria isolated from the patients.

Furthermore, the WHO is using the genome sequencing to identify other cases which may be linked to the current outbreak.

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Presently, in relation to the outbreak In South Africa, the WHO has not instituted any trade-related measures, aside from a national recall of products implicated as a potential source of infection

The United Nation health agency is working with the 16 identified priority countries to improve their readiness and ability to detect and respond to potential outbreaks.

Proactive measures such as raising awareness to listeriosis, effective surveillance, laboratory diagnosis, the formation of Rapid Response Teams and putting in place coordination and contingency plans.

The U.N has deployed experts to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland to coordinate these efforts.
“This outbreak serves as a wakeup call to all countries in the region, to strengthen their disease surveillance system and national food safety, “said by WHO regional director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.