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CDC warns of dangers of listeriosis to high-risk groups

2019/01/01 18:26

Generic image of a salad

Taipei, Jan. 1 (CNA) A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) doctor has cautioned people in Taiwan, especially those in high risk groups, to beware of the potentially deadly infectious disease listeriosis caused by bacteria in uncooked food.

In a recent interview with the Central News Agency, Chen Wan-ching (陳婉青) urged people in such high risk groups as pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems to avoid ready-to-eat meat products and ensure that the food they eat is cooked thoroughly.

The doctor said the bacteria causing the disease -- listeria -- is widely present in soil and water and quite resilient.

Able to survive in a variety of environmental conditions, it is tolerant of dry and high-temperature environments and acidic conditions, and multiplies at 4 degrees Celsius, Chen said, but it can be killed at temperatures of 72 degrees.

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

One of the biggest outbreaks occurred in the United States in 2011, when listeria-contaminated cantaloupes from a farm in Colorado led to 147 listeriosis cases and 33 deaths.

In January 2018, Taiwan followed in the footsteps of countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia by naming listeriosis as a notifiable disease -- one required by law to be reported to central authorities.

With it being more reliably reported, it emerged as the fifth leading cause of infectious disease deaths in Taiwan last year, with 24 deaths among the 163 people infected.

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

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

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

(By Chen Wei-ting and Yu-Chen Chung)Enditem/ls