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Listeriosis in South Africa and Lassa Fever in Nigeria

The CEO of Tiger Brands vehemently denies responsibility for the outbreak of listeriosis that killed 180 people since January 2017.

Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die. The infection is most likely to sicken pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems.

78 of the deceased were young children. In February listeriosis was detected in a factory at Polokwane in the province of Limpopo and was kept confidential. The WHO and a South African laboratory team presented evidence that listeriosis was present in several food products marketed by Tiger Brands. Tiger Brands cannot escape this controversy. Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia have ceased stocking Tiger Brand products. Polony sauces, based on chicken and industrially produced ham are suspected to be contaminated. South Africa is replete with township kiosks selling baskets of cheap meat products under many different labels and brands. Poorer people rely on mixture of proteins from various animal sources for cheap food thus and therefore only the poor are affected by this epidemic. Bread and Polony meat paste, a staple diet of the poor, is proving lethal for the children of the poor in South African townships

Lassa Fever

The fight against Lassa Fever has intensified since 2017 when the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations was created following the Ebola epidemic. The Austrian biotech firm, Themis are conducting primary clinical trials. The Pasteur Institute are concentrating on Lassa Fever which closely resemble the symptoms of Ebola has led to 72 deaths since January 2018 in Nigeria. with the WHo confirming 110 deaths during the same period.

Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses. It is transmitted to humans from contacts with food or household items contaminated with rodent excreta. The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa.

The numbers infected increased from 143 during 2017 to 353 in 2018 which means that it is incremental ensuring the epidemic is difficult to contain. Lassa Fever is endemic in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone with cases in Nigeria restricted to the south of the country.

Family visits to patients with Lassa Fever must wear gloves and disposable gowns to limit the fever, security at hospitals must be vigilant with the risk of infection highly likely within families. Treatment is re-hydration with haemodialysis a requirement. alonfg with administering an anti-viral ribavirine. A treatment for hepatitis C at €250 per patient which is made only in China is proving prohibitively expensive.

Sources: Epidémie historique et listériose en Afrique du Sud; La fiévre de Lassa, maladie proche d'Ébola, se répand au Nigeria, Le Monde 9 Mars 2018

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