The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality wishes to assure all local residents and communities that it is actively managing the Listeriosis outbreak in the city, in cooperation with all members of the Listeriosis Outbreak Response Team, which includes the provincial Departments of Health and Agriculture, as well as the NMBM’s Environmental Health and Emergency Services Divisions.
While the NMBM Environmental Health Team is investigating all possible sources of the outbreak within our city, the contaminated source has not yet been identified. The investigations undertaken, are extensive and include the tracing of all Listeriosis patients, testing their surroundings, and inspecting and testing bulk milk suppliers, food processing facilities and food distribution centres. All samples taken, are tested by an accredited laboratory at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in Johannesburg. The inspections and tests will continue until the source is found and isolated.
The Municipality wishes to assure residents that municipal drinking water at municipal water treatment works and water supply points is regularly tested for the presence of Listeria bacteria. The tests are being done by an independent and accredited laboratory, and all test results have confirmed that Listeria bacteria are not present in the Municipality’s drinking water sources.
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by a gram-positive bacterium called Listeria Monocytogenes. Listeria bacteria are found in the general environment, including in soil, water and vegetation, including vegetables. In humans, symptoms are usually mild and may include fever, malaise and sometimes nausea and diarrhoea. In at-risk patients, the disease can cause meningitis. Individuals and groupings at special risk of Listeria infection are new-borns, the elderly, pregnant women and their unborn babies, as well as people with underlying health conditions, such as uncontrolled HIV/AIDS, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver, kidney diseases and generally persons with compromised immune systems.
The Municipality urges residents to take special care in safe food preparation and personal hygiene, as research has shown that in most human outbreaks of Listeriosis, the sources of infection are contaminated food sources, particularly hotdogs, deli meats, unpasteurized milk, cheeses (particularly soft-ripened cheeses), raw and cooked poultry, raw meats, ice-cream and raw unwashed fruits (see five tips for safer food handling attached to this release).
The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality uses its official channels to communicate with its communities. Community members are urged not to rely on unverified social media posts for information on the incidence of Listeriosis in the city. Members of the community who desire more information or clarification about Listeriosis, are invited to visit their nearest municipal environmental health offices (Uitenhage Town Hall, the Gail Road Depot, the Ntshekisa Road Depot or the Lillian Diedericks Building in Govan Mbeki Avenue) or to contact the municipal Call Centre on 0800 505050.
Five keys to safer food
1. Keep clean:
- Wash hands before handling food and often during food preparation;
- Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation
- Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests and other animals
2. Separate raw and cooked:
- Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods
- Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods
- Store food in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared foods
3. Cook thoroughly
- Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry eggs and seafood
- Bring foods like soups and stews to boiling point to make sure that they have reached 70ºC. For meat and poultry, make sure that juices are clear, not pink: ideally, use a thermometer
- Reheat cooked food thoroughly
4. Keep food at safe temperatures
- Keep food piping hot (above 60ºC) prior to serving
- Keep all food covered at all times
- Refrain from opening the refrigerator for long periods unnecessarily
- Don not store food too long, even in the refrigerator
- Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable food (preferably below 5ºC)
- Thaw food in the refrigerator, not at room temperature
- Do not leave cooked food at room temperatures for more than 2 hours
5. Use safe water and raw materials
- Use safe water or treat (boil) it to make it safe
- Select fresh and wholesome foods
- Choose foods processed for safety, such as pasteurized milk
- Wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw
- Do not use food beyond its expiry date
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