DAR ES SALAAM, The Tanzanian government is on high alert following reports that a deadly outbreak linked to tainted food in South Africa is now threatening other African nations.

Tanzania has been mentioned in the report issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), early this week, as being among 16 African nations whose populations are likely to be infected with the disease.

According to the statement by the UN health organisation issued last week, Namibia has confirmed a case that might be connected with the bacterial disease. In a statement, WHO said it has reached out to 16 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 has been quoted as saying there have been 950 cases in all.

Contaminated meat products may have been exported to two West African countries and a dozen southern African ones, the UN health agency said. The countries include Nigeria, the continent's most populous nation.

According to WHO, a South African factory has been identified as the outbreak's source. Speaking to the 'Sunday News' yesterday, Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development, Elderly and Children, Dr Faustine Ndugulile (pictured), said it was true that they received the report on the outbreak. It is very true that we received the report about the outbreak, but given the fact that we have good national food safety and disease surveillance systems, we are confident of dealing with it in case it happens, Dr Ndugulile said.

He said precautionary measures are already in place to protect the public from the outbreak. According to the Deputy Minister, no single case has so far been reported in the country. Despite an international recall of the products, further cases are likely because of listeriosis' potentially long incubation period, WHO insisted in its statement. "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.

Other countries mentioned by WHO as being susceptible are: Angola, Botswana, Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.Medical reports describe Listeriosis as a disease that is caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium called 'Listerial monocytogenes'.

Listeriosis is apropublic health problem in North America. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns and anyone who is immune compromised. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea.

If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur. Infection during pregnancy may appear mild but can lead to stillbirth, premature delivery, and infection of the newborn. Persons who are at risk of contracting Listeriosis can prevent the infection by avoiding certain high-risk foods and by handling food properly.

Raw food from animal sources (such as beef, pork, or poultry) should be thoroughly cooked and uncooked meats should be kept separate from vegetables, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods. Raw vegetables should be washed thoroughly before being eaten and raw (unpasteurized) milk or foods made from raw milk should be avoided.