The World Health Organization (WHO) has reached out to 16 African nations to provide support for preparedness and response to a listeriosis outbreak that started in South Africa in 2017 but is now threatening other countries on the continent.
The 16 countries are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Nearly 200 South Africans have died since January 2017 as a result of contaminated ready-to-eat meat products that are widely consumed in South Africa and may also have been exported to two West African countries and 14 members of the South African Development Community (SADC)
South African health authorities recently declared the source of the outbreak as a factory in Polokwane, South Africa. This prompted a national and international recall of the food products. However, in light of the potentially long incubation period of listeriosis and the challenges relating to large scale nationwide recall processes, further cases are likely to occur.
Namibia has reported one confirmed case of listeriosis, a man who was admitted to hospital in early March. An investigation is ongoing to determine whether the case is connected to the outbreak in South Africa.
WHO’s Health Emergencies programme, the Global Outbreak alert and Response Network (GOARN) and the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) are working with the 16 priority countries to improve their ability to prepare for, detect and respond to potential outbreaks.
Immediate steps will include increasing awareness on listeriosis, enhancing active surveillance and laboratory diagnosis, ensuring readiness of Rapid Response Teams, and strengthening coordination and contingency planning. Experts have been deployed to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland to support these efforts.
“This outbreak is a wake up call for countries in the region to strengthen their national food safety and disease surveillance systems,” says Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
The Ministry of Health in Uganda in mid-March, 2018 warned Ugandans against consuming imported meat products mainly imported from South Africa in a bid to avoid the spread of the disease to the Country. No case of Listeriosis has been reported in Uganda as of 22nd March, 2018.
The link between the contaminated products, the producing company and strains of Listeria isolated from the patients was made by the use of whole genome sequencing of isolated strains of the Listeria bacteria. WHO is supporting further genome sequencing to determine which cases are linked to this on-going outbreak.
In March, South Africa hosted a meeting of SADC health ministers to address regional preparedness and response to listeriosis. Ministers committed to regional collaboration, exchanging information and strengthening national food safety systems in line with international standards.
WHO does not currently recommend any trade related measures in relation to the current outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa, other than the recall of products identified as sources of infection.
Countries are encouraged to pay more attention to common foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.coli and Listeria, to notify WHO of listeriosis outbreaks in line with the International Health Regulations (2005), and to make use of WHO guidelines to strengthen surveillance of and response to the foodborne disease.
- Listeriosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
- Listeria monocytogenesare widely distributed in nature. They can be found in soil, water, vegetation and the faeces of some animals and can contaminate foods.
- High risk foods include deli meat and ready-to-eat meat products (such as cooked, cured and/or fermented meats and sausages), soft cheeses and cold smoked fishery products.
- Pregnant women, the elderly or individuals with a weakened immune system, such as people with immuno-compromised status due to HIV/AIDS, leukaemia, cancer, kidney transplant and steroid therapy, are at greatest risk of severe listeriosis and should avoid high risk foods.
- Listeriosis is a serious, but preventable and treatable disease.
Source: World Health Organisation
Additional Reporting by Cliff Abenaitwe
Blood pressure and fluid retention improve in those counseled by dietitians, small study shows
Encouraging people with kidney disease to reduce their salt intake may help improve blood pressure and cut excess fluid retention, at least for a while, a new study suggests.
Study participants lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number)
by almost 11 points, on average, on a salt-restricted diet versus their usual diet. They also flushed out a liter of water (about one-quart) from their bodies, on average, by slashing salt in their diets, researchers said.
Having high blood pressure and retaining excess salt and water in the body stresses the heart and blood vessels, explained lead author Dr. Rajiv Saran of the University of Michigan.
For kidney disease patients, high blood pressure (or “hypertension”) and excess fluid in the body can be a toxic combination. “They die predominantly of cardiovascular disease,” said Saran, a professor of internal medicine and epidemiology in the nephrology division.
Yet doctors rarely have time or make time to counsel each patient about salt-restricted diets, he said.
Saran and co-investigators wondered whether having trained dietitians talk to patients with chronic kidney disease by phone or in person about ways to lower daily sodium intake would make a difference. Read More
While rats are met with revulsion in most parts of the world, some communities put rodents pride of place on the dinner menu.
Before going to sleep, you ought to make sure no food is left forgotten somewhere on the floor or table. Otherwise, you may end up with some familiar and unwelcome guests: rats. Just a glimpse of a furry rodent is enough to inspire revulsion and complaints to authorities – for example, New York has recently renewed efforts to solve a ‘rat crisis’ in the city. But such guests are not despised everywhere. In fact, in some places around the world, rats are considered a delicious delicacy.On 7 March every year……. (read more)
Aside Posted on Updated on
Bio-Science key to Achieving MDG1 in Africa
African countries have a long way to go if they are to achieve the
millennium development goal one (MDG1) of halving by 2015 the
proportion of people suffering from extreme hunger and poverty.
Less than 3 years to the deadline, the continent is still synonymous
with millions living below the poverty line and it is still affected
by hunger which seems to be going nowhere.
According to the UN food and agriculture 2010-2011, sub Saharan Africa is home to 26 percent of the world’s undernourished population, has the highest number of countries experiencing food emergencies due to in part, to climate extremes such as drought and exacerbated by civil unrest. The same reports reveals that Sub Saharan African still experiences increased food imports and is very vulnerable to global food price increases.
Experts attribute this trend to the poor performance of the agricultural sector.
The academy of science of South Africa (ASSAF) in its 2012 regulation
of agricultural GM technology in Africa report reveals that the poor
performance of the agricultural sector undermines Africa’s prospects
of attaining the MDGs and sustainable development in general. “The low agricultural productivity is associated with a wider range of
factors, including low investments in education, infrastructure,
research and development and over reliance on convectional technologies”, the report explains.
The solution for Africa is to improve the performance of the
However this report warns that much as the application of the best
conventional agricultural technologies can make significant
contribution to improving food security, it is not sufficient in
itself. “ The expansion of cultivated land through mechanization and provision of fertilizers can make a positive impact on food security in Africa but further benefits can be achieved by the application of modern biotechnology methods to plant improvement programs, principally for the so-called ‘orphan crops’ of particular importance to Africa”, the
According to Doctor Fen Beed, a pathologist from the USA who has worked in Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Ghana, it would be surprising if Africa met the MDG1 by 2015 but according to him, this can be achieved in years to come.“If African countries can adopt bio-technology and other good farming practices, poverty and hunger can be reduced but this will be after 2015,” he added.
Other scientists also agree with Doctor Beed on the role of bio-technology in agricultural improvement in Africa.
In the book Insights; Africa’s future.. can bioscience contribute?, Calestous Juma, a world renown scientist argues that African agriculture will need to intensify the use of science and technology more than would have been the case without the threats of climate change. “Investment in science and technology will be required along the entire agricultural value chain from resource intelligence through production, marketing, storage and ecological rehabilitation,” he explains.
Synonymous with what the researchers are recommending, African countries are making commendable progress in the use of Bio-science.
At Mukono zonal agricultural research and development institute research into improved crop species is under way and the institute has already developed improved fruit varieties. “The breeds we are developing as a result of grafting and cross breeding are disease resistant, quick maturing and high yielding,” Robinah Gafabusa, a fruits and vegetables research technician at this institute explains.
At the National research Organization NARO, researchers are developing different crop varieties to help farmers cope with the problem of diseases and low yields. According to Tendo Sali Lauben, a crop breeder at NARO, they have already developed banana varieties like M20, M9, M21 which mature fast, are disease resistant and they give high yields.
Numerous research institutions and scientists are currently working on developing different Bio- technologies and the African continent is getting itself ready for genetically modified technologies. However, Doctor Charles Lagu from the Mbarara agricultural research and development institute is calling for more sensitization of the farmers to adapt to these technologies if the current efforts are to bear fruits.
It is estimated that by 2050, the world population will increase to 9 billion people and this will increase food demand. The food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (FAO) is predicting that food production will need to increase by 70 percent.
To me, scientists and researchers, embracing Bio technology and genetically modified technology for agricultural improvement is the way to go and we all have a role to play in this.