Bigger WHO team to boost SA’s fight against listeriosis

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South Africa’s fight against the deadly listeriosis outbreak has received a shot in the arm the World Health Organisation (WHO) announcing it had increased technical support to help contain the disease. Business Day reports that the WHO’s increased support was in line with international health regulations and “the recommendations to fill in the gaps identified through joint external evaluation”, the Health Department said.

Following the Southern African Development Community health ministers meeting, the WHO, in consultation with the South African government, agreed to increase its support to the response effort.

“This is in keeping with provisions of the international health regulations to ensure that there is outbreak containment while limiting disruption to trade. This is important given that some countries had imposed trade bans contrary to WHO recommendations regarding this outbreak,” the department said.

“This increased support by WHO is very much (welcomed) by the ministry of health and the government of SA.”

The report said the WHO had enlisted a technical team of epidemiologists, food safety experts and risk communication specialists to support the response. The team would continue working with the existing multisectoral team, which included the departments of health, agriculture and trade and industry.

The outbreak is the worst in recorded history and has been responsible for at least 185 deaths since January 2017, the Health Department says.

In March, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases identified Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterium that causes listeriosis, in ready-to-eat processed meats made by Tiger Brands and RCL Foods.

The report says the bacteria were found in samples of Tiger’s Enterprise polony and sausages and in polony made by RCL Foods.

This prompted the National Consumer Commission to order product recalls and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Department to suspend their export certificates.

Business Day report

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