The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday warned Nigeria and 15 other African countries of a listeriosis outbreak that started in South Africa in 2017, confirming its support for their preparedness and response to the disease.
The other African countries are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection most commonly caused by Listeria monocytogenes.
It can cause severe illness, including severe sepsis, meningitis, or encephalitis, sometimes resulting in lifelong harm and even death.
Listeria is ubiquitous and is primarily transmitted via the oral route after ingestion of contaminated food products.
According to WHO data, nearly 200 South Africans have died since January 2017 as a result of contaminated ready-to-eat meat products that are widely consumed in the country and may also have been exported to two West African countries and 14 members of the South African Development Community (SADC).
South African health authorities recently declared the source of the outbreak as a factory in Polokwane, in the country’s northeast.
This prompted a national and international recall of the food products.
However, in light of the potentially long incubation period of listeriosis and the challenges relating to large scale nationwide recall processes, further cases are likely to occur.