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WHO says tainted food outbreak threatens 16 African nations

Tainted processed food

GENEVA— The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) says a deadly outbreak linked to tainted food in South Africa is now posing a serious threat to other African nations.

Neighboring nations including Namibia reportedly confirmed a case that might be connected to the tainted food outbreak, according to the World Health Organization on Tuesday.

WHO, in a statement, said it has reached out to 16 African countries to help with preparedness and response to the listeriosis outbreak that has killed nearly 200 people since January 2017.

South Africa’s health minister and senior infectious disease professionals have said there have been 950 cases in all.

Sources say contaminated meat products produced in South Africa may have been exported to two West African countries, including Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, and a dozen southern African nations, according to the U.N. health agency.

Authorities have identified a South African factory as the source of the outbreak.

WHO said despite an international recall of the factory’s products, further cases are likely because listeriosis has a potentially long incubation period.

“This outbreak is a wake-up call for countries in the region to strengthen their national food safety and disease surveillance systems,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.

The 16 countries that are possibly affected include Angola, Botswana, Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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