Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya has revealed that Zambia has so far not recorded any case of Listeriosis.
In a statement, Dr Chilufya said the Ministry is working with local and international stakeholders to ensure that Zambians are protected from the outbreak.
He has since urged the general public to take extra caution regarding eating risky foods which include processed, ready to eat meat products, soft cheese and dairy products to prevent the disease.
“My Ministry has in place resilient health systems that are able to detect threats to national security and prevent such outbreaks in the country. Further, the Ministry has strengthened Port Health systems to monitor food imports into the country in line with the public health act cap. 295 and the food and drugs act cap 303 of the laws of Zambia,” Dr Chilufya said.
He added, “the disease surveillance and intelligence team, as well as health inspectors have been directed to diligently investigate all suspicious food products. And take appropriate action, including destroying of contaminated or suspicious products.”
Dr Chilufya said Zambia has imposed an immediate ban on imports of risky foods including processed meats, dairy products, vegetables and fruits from South Africa
He said the points of entry have been instructed to seize all suspected risky products.
“All Chief Executive Officers of major chain stores in Zambia which include Pick and Pay and Shoprite have been engaged and directed to cooperate with health inspectors in the removal and disposal of the risky products from their shelves and stores,” Dr Chilufya said.
He said laboratory investigations will be carried out at the University Teaching Hospital by the Micro biology laboratory and at the University of Zambia, in the School of Veterinary medicine.
“The National Codex Alimentarius Committee will conduct a scientific risk assessment on cold meats to ascertain the risk in the country. Risk communication to the public through various media platforms on preventative measures which include avoiding eating risky foods, including processed, ready to eat meat products, soft cheese and unpasturised milk and dairy products. I must reiterate that although listerosis is a serious disease, it is treatable and preventable.”
Listeriosis is a food borne disease and the first case was recorded on Jan 1st 2017 in South Africa and as of March 4th 2018, a total of 948 cases had been laboratory confirmed with a total of 180 deaths in that country.
Listeriosis is caused by a bacteria called listerio monosycogenes and it has symptoms such as fever and sometimes nausea and diarrhoea while in severe cases, the bacteria may spread to the blood stream and nervous system with symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions. It may also be fatal.
The risk groups include pregnant women and new borns, the elderly who are over 65 and the immunal compromised adults.
Infected pregnant women may experience a mild flu like illness and in more serious cases, it may cause miscarriage, still births, premature delivery or life threatening infection to the new born.
In South Africa, 85 percent of the patients interviewed reported having eaten ready to eat processed foods.
Meat products of which polony was the most common followed by viennas, sausages and other cold meats.