5 March 2018

Lesotho: Ministry of Health Proactive to Listeriosis - Minister

The Minister of Health says his ministry has been proactive in sensitizing its staff on nature and behavior of listeriosis through its International Health Regulations and Environmental Health in the Disease Control since the outset of listeriosis.

Mr. Nkaku Kabi revealed this during a media briefing held at the Ministry's headquarters on Monday. The Minister said there has not been any reported cases of Listeriosis in the country (Lesotho), noting that his Ministry is ready to act if any.

He stressed that they have also rolled out surveillance of symptoms that could be linked to or be likened to those of listeriosis whilst also partnering with the Department of Disease Control in South Africa since the beginning of listeriosis outbreak threat in January 2017.

He highlighted that listeria virus is found in the soil, fruit and vegetables, dairy products, and processed ready to eat foods and affects mainly pregnant women, the elderly persons, babies and people whose immune system is compromised such as those living with HIV, saying its symptoms are said to include meningitis, brain abscess and diarrhea in healthy people.

Though no reports were registered in the country, the prevalence of the disease in South Africa is cause for concern because it is Lesotho's immediate neighbor and a factor which makes it easier to cross the borders into Lesotho. Therefore locals were also cautioned to avoid consuming Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken products and that border health inspection has been intensified to ensure that such products are not imported into Lesotho.

The Ministry's Environmental Health section has already embarked on local shops' inspection visits countrywide to ensure that such products are removed from the shelves, further engaging trained border health inspectors to check incoming goods of possible imported perishables. The products are also expected to be disposed of and incinerated accordingly.

Meanwhile, the Director General Health Services, Dr 'Nyane Letsie said there are essential drugs readily available to treat and cure listeriosis provided suspects consult health services earlier and not later, saying delay to consult health services makes things difficult.

With regard to the possibility of cross-contamination, the Berea Health Manager, Dr Ts'epang Lekhela emphasised the importance to exercise and maintain hygiene by washing hands and thoroughly cooking food at all times since the virus cannot survive temperature beyond 60 degrees Celsius, noting that symptoms could present after four weeks of ingestion of the virus though it could also be detected between one and 70 days depending on individual immunity.

Dr Lekhela thus cautioned the importance for the aforementioned vulnerable groups to avoid consuming food stored in refrigerators since the listeria virus has been found to be current thereat contaminating all other foods which are said to be vulnerable to infection.

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