A pregnant woman is the latest person to die from listeriosis, the Gauteng health department confirmed on Monday. This brings the national death toll to 37, since the announcement of the outbreak of the disease last week.
Listeriosis is a food-borne disease illness associated with eating a wide variety of food contaminated with a bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes. It can be found in soil, water and vegetation. Animal products and fresh produce can also be contaminated from these sources.
A total of 557 cases of listeriosis have been detected this year alone, with most cases reported in Gauteng.
Following the latest fatality, health and social development MMC Mpho Phalatse said pregnant women were one of the groups particularly at risk -- at least 20 times more likely to be affected, according to the Centre of Disease and Control (CDC).
Infection can occur at any time during pregnancy but is most common during the third trimester as an expectant's mom immune system is suppressed. The foetus' immune system is also not fully developed.
Listeriosis can put the mom at risk of miscarriage, premature delivery and stillbirth.
Symptoms may include flu-like symptoms, headaches, muscle aches, fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
The good news is although serious, listeriosis is preventable and treatable.
What moms-to-be can do to decrease their risk of getting the disease:
- Practise safe food handling. Wash all your fruits and vegetables, keep everything clean including your hands and preparation surfaces and avoid cross-contamination between raw and uncooked foods.
- Avoid both unpasteurised soft cheeses and milk products.
- Avoid cold meat, unless reheated.
- Avoid deli-counter salads.
- Refrigerate or freeze food promptly.
- Do not eat food that is past its expiry date.