Zimbabwe on high alert as listeriosis kills 180 in South Africa

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ZIMBABWE will keep imports of processed meat from South Africa despite a devastating outbreak of a killer listeriosis outbreak in the neighbouring country.

Four Sadc countries, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi Monday banned the import of processed meats from South Africa in a bid to protect their citizens from the disease that has thus far claimed 180 lives.

The outbreak has been traced back to a major foods manufacturer in South Africa.

A statement from the Health Ministry said Zimbabwe is yet to record any case of listeriosis.

“The outbreak of the disease which is being experienced in South Africa since the beginning of the year is still confined to that country and has not spread to Zimbabwe.

“The authorities in that country have managed to trace the diseases to a source which is known and has been named,” said the statement.

“Foods that are spreading the disease in South Africa are also known and measures are being taken so that those perishable goods don’t circulate and end up being consumed.”

Listeriosis is a rare foodborne disease found in 10 cases per every million people and is spread from consumption of foods that are contaminated by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes.

Among high risk foods according to the statement include ready-to-eat meat products such as cooked, cured and/or fermented meats, and sausages, soft cheeses and cold smoked fishery products and dairy products made of unpasteurized milk.

“The disease can also be spread from one person who is sick to others by sharing food or through contact,” the department added.

Accordingly, government said, it had put in place measures to protect people from listeriosis.

“Cross border collaboration and sharing of information on disease outbreak with our neighbour is being strengthened. International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 prohibits trade restriction due disease outbreaks,” said the statement.

“Monitoring of refrigerated ready to eat foods coming into the country at the border posts to make sure that they are not coming from the identified brands and source. Inspection of food outlets and companies in at risk areas and border districts.”

Government said it will also be monitoring its porous border for infected people coming into the country adding: “Meanwhile people should desist from carrying ready to eat foods such as sausages, polony, viennas, ham, meat spread, corned meat, salami and pepperoni from the identified source of the disease outbreak into the country.”

Monitors have according to the statement been placed at all ports of entry.