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
Farmers need to dramatically cut the amount of antibiotics used in agriculture, because of the threat to human health, a report says.
Some infections are becoming almost impossible to treat, because of the excessive use of antibiotics.
And more than half of those used around the world are used in animals, often to make them grow more quickly.
The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance called for new targets on the amount of antibiotics used.
The great threat of excessive antibiotics use in agriculture was highlighted in China last month.
Scientists warned the world was on the cusp of the “post-antibiotic era” after discovering bacteria resistant to the antibiotic colistin – the medication used when all others have failed. (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)
Danger Looms As Foodborne Diseases Hit Alarming Levels
Food safety is an increasingly important public health issue and governments all over the world are intensifying their efforts to improve food safety. These efforts are in response to an increasing number of food safety problems like foodborne diseases. According to the world health organization, these are diseases usually either infectious or toxic in nature, caused by agents that enter the body through the ingestion of food.
Magnitude Of Foodborne Illness
Foodborne diseases are a widespread and growing public health problem, both in developed and developing countries. The global incidence of foodborne disease is difficult to estimate, but it has been reported that in 2005 alone 1.8 million people died from diarrhoeal diseases and ever since, this number is believed to have increased. A great proportion of these cases can be attributed to contamination of food and drinking water. Additionally, diarrhoea is a major cause of malnutrition in infants and young children.
In industrialized countries, the percentage of the population suffering from foodborne diseases each year has been reported to be up to 30%. In the United States of America (USA), for example, around 76 million cases of foodborne diseases, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, are estimated to occur each year. While less well documented, developing countries bear the brunt of the problem due to the presence of a wide range of foodborne diseases, including those caused by parasites. The high prevalence of diarrhoeal diseases in many developing countries suggests major underlying food safety problems.
While most foodborne diseases are sporadic and often not reported, foodborne disease outbreaks may take on massive proportions. For example, in 1994, an outbreak of salmonellosis due to contaminated ice cream occurred in the USA, affecting an estimated 224,000 persons. In 1988, an outbreak of hepatitis A, resulting from the consumption of contaminated clams, affected some 300,000 individuals in China.
Major Foodborne Diseases A Glance
Salmonellosis: Thisis a major problem in most countries. Salmonellosis is caused by the Salmonella bacteria and symptoms are fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Examples of foods involved in outbreaks of salmonellosis are eggs, poultry and other meats, raw milk and chocolate.
Campylobacteriosis: This is a wide spreadinfection that is caused by certain species of Campylobacter bacteria and in some countries, the reported number of cases surpasses the incidence of salmonellosis. Foodborne cases are mainly caused by foods such as raw milk, raw or undercooked poultry and drinking water. Acute health effects of campylobacteriosis include severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and diarrhoea. In two to ten per cent of cases the infection may lead to chronic health problems, including reactive arthritis and neurological disorders.
Cholera: This disease is increasingly becoming synonymous with the developing world thus a major public health problem. The disease is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. In addition to water, contaminated foods can be the vehicle of infection. Different foods, including rice, vegetables, millet gruel and various types of seafood have been implicated in outbreaks of cholera. Symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting and profuse watery diarrhoea, may lead to severe dehydration and possibly death, unless fluid and salt are replaced.
The list is endless but what is more important to note is how to lessen the outbreak of these diseases. The world ought to join hands in promoting food safety through senstisation and policy formulation among other initiatives. These efforts should cover the entire food chain from production to consumption should embrace all types of expertise world over.
FOOD SAFETY- WHAT YOU MUST KNOW
Foodborne diseases take a major toll on health. Millions of people fall ill and many die as a result of eating unsafe food. Deeply concerned by this, WHO Member States adopted a resolution in 2000 to recognize food safety as an essential public health function.
Food safety encompasses actions aimed at ensuring that all food is as safe as possible. Food safety policies and actions need to cover the entire food chain, from production to consumption.
Food safety is a public health priority; millions of people fall ill every year and many die as a result of eating unsafe food. Serious outbreaks of foodborne disease have been documented on every continent in the past decade, and in many countries rates of illnesses are increasing significantly.
Key global food safety concerns include spread of microbiological hazards (including such bacteria as Salmonella or Escherichia coli, e. coli), chemical food contaminants, assessments of new food technologies (such as genetically modified food) and strong food safety systems in most countries to ensure a safe global food-chain.
FOOD SAFETY FACTS
More than 200 diseases are spread through food
Millions of people
fall ill every year and many die as a result of eating unsafe food.
Diarrhoeal diseases alone kill an estimated 1.5 million children annually, and most of these illnesses are attributed to contaminated food or water. Proper food preparation can prevent most foodborne diseases.
Foodborne diseases are increasing worldwide
Disease-causing organisms in food are transmitted far and wide by today’s interconnected global food-chains – escalating how often and where foodborne illnesses occur. Rapid urbanization worldwide is adding to risks, as urban dwellers eat more food prepared outside the home that may not be handled or prepared safely – including fresh foods and fish, meat and poultry.
Food safety is a global concern
Globalization of food production and trade increases the likelihood of international incidents involving contaminated food. Imported food products and ingredients are common in most countries. Stronger food safety systems in export countries can reinforce both local and cross-border health security.
Emerging diseases are tied to food production
About 75% of the new infectious diseases affecting humans over the past 10 years were caused by bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that started in animals and animal products. Many of these diseases in people are related to the handling of infected domestic and wild animals during food production – in food markets and at slaughter houses.
Minimize the risk of avian influenza
The vast majority of H5N1 avian influenza cases in people follow direct contact with infected live or dead birds. There is no evidence that the disease is spread to people by eating properly cooked poultry. To avoid risk of foodborne illnesses in poultry one ought to separate raw meat from other foods, keep clean and wash your hands and cook thoroughly (until meat is 70 °C in all parts, with no pink areas).
Disease prevention starts from the farm
Preventing animal infections at the farm level can reduce foodborne illnesses. For example, reducing the amount of Salmonella in farm chickens by 50% (through better farm management) results in 50% less people getting sick from the bacteria. Salmonella-free chicken herds are becoming more common in some countries.
Chemical hazards can contaminate food
Acrylamide, which may cause cancer, is formed from natural ingredients during the cooking of some foods at high temperatures (generally above 120 °C), including fried potato products, baked cereal products and coffee. The food industry is working to find methods to lower exposure to such chemicals. Avoid overcooking when frying, grilling or baking food.
Everyone has a role to play in food safety
Food contamination can occur at any stage from farm to table. Everyone on the food delivery chain must employ measures to keep food safe – farmer, processor, vendor and consumer. Safety at home is just as vital to prevent disease outbreaks. Women are primary targets for food safety education as they are responsible for household meals in many societies.
Schools ought to champion food safety
Educating children on safe food handling behaviors is key to preventing foodborne diseases today and in the future. Integrating food safety lessons into school curricula gives children essential life skills that can help to keep them and their families healthy.
Five keys to food safety
WHO and Member States are promoting the benefits of food safety, healthy diets and physical activity. The five keys to safer food are:
- keep clean
- separate raw and cooked
- cook all foods thoroughly
- keep food at safe temperatures
- Use safe water and raw materials.