SOUTH AFRICA – Samples from a food outlet have been taken to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases to be tested for strains of listeria on Friday.

Environmental health practitioners in the City of Joburg are attempting to uncover the potential source of the infection.

Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Health and Social Development in the City of Johannesburg, Dr Mpho Phalatse, has called on all community members not to panic but to remain vigilant and adhere to food safety guidelines.

There are 17 strains of the organism, but not all of them are disease-causing.

The major human pathogen in the Listeria genus is L. monocytogenes which is using the case of the relatively rare bacterial disease.

Eating food contaminated with the bacteria causes the infection.

“I would like to commend our Environmental Health Practitioners for uncovering this potential source of infection. We are awaiting lab confirmation of whether or not this is a disease-causing strain of the organism. We should have the results in the next 24 to 48 hours.

In the meantime, residents should continue adhering to food safety guidelines and report to their nearest clinic if they start experiencing symptoms associated with the disease, especially pregnant women, babies below the age of 28 days, senior citizens above the age of 65 and immunocompromised patients” said MMC Phalatse.

City of Joburg Environmental Health inspectors have also issued instructions that premises identified as high risk be sanitized while tests are ongoing.

Preventing Listeriosis as a foodborne illness requires effective sterilization of food contact surfaces.

Alcohol is an effective surface cleaner against Listeria. Ammonia can be used with alcohol as a food-contact safe sterilizer with increased duration of the sterilization action.

As of the 16th of January 2018, a total of 764 Listeriosis cases have been reported across the country, with the City of Joburg reporting 212 cases with 19 deaths so far.

In support of Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba’s campaign to clamp down on lawlessness in the City of Johannesburg, the city’s Environmental Health Unit is also intensifying its oversight role in ensuring that all food handlers strictly adhere to prescribed standards in their field of operation.

The City of Joburg reminded food handlers to pay attention to hygiene during preparation and distribution of the food.

Phalatse said she will support Mayor Mashaba in bringing order to all sectors of society in the city, including those who supply and handle food.

She said her department will continue with public awareness campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of Listeriosis.