Thu, Jan 03, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Doctor warns of potentially deadly danger of listeriosis

Staff writer, with CNA

Tomato slices on a bed of lettuce in a salad are pictured in Taipei on Tuesday.

Photo: CNA

A doctor has warned people, especially those in high-risk groups, against the potentially deadly infectious disease listeriosis, which is caused by bacteria found in uncooked food.

People in high-risk groups, such as pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system, should avoid ready-to-eat meat products and ensure that the food they eat is cooked thoroughly, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) physician Chen Wan-ching (陳婉青) said.

The bacteria that causes the disease — listeria — is widely present in soil and water, and is quite resilient, Chen said.

Capable of surviving in a variety of environmental conditions, it is tolerant to dry environments, high temperatures and acidic conditions, and multiplies at 4°C, she said.

The bacteria can be killed if heated to a temperature of at least 72°C, Chen said.

Several listeriosis outbreaks have been reported around the world in the past decade, triggered by the consumption of salads, processed meat products, such as sausages and hot dogs, and fruit contaminated by listeria.

One of the biggest outbreaks occurred in the US in 2011, when listeria-contaminated cantaloupes from a farm in Colorado resulted in 147 listeriosis cases, 33 of which ended in death.

In January last year, Taiwan followed in the footsteps of nations such as the US, Canada and Australia by naming listeriosis as a notifiable disease — one required by law to be reported to central authorities.

Once being strictly reported, the disease last year became the fifth leading cause of infectious disease deaths in Taiwan, with 24 deaths among 163 cases.

The top four causes were tuberculosis, severe influenza, HIV/AIDS and invasive pneumococcal disease.

Even before notification of listeriosis was made mandatory, the CDC received reports of 109 cases from September 2014 to June 2016.

The most commonly affected group was people aged 65 and over, but two cases involved mother-to-child (vertical) infection, according to CDC data.

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