The “diarrhoea surge season”, which lasts until May, is in full swing, the City has warned.
The season coincides with the warmer weather and children under five are particularly vulnerable.
By the end of November last year, when the season started, there were four recorded deaths from listeria, a bacteria which can trigger diarrhoea, among the 33 recorded cases.
There were also 21 severe and 37 moderate cases of dehydration, from diarrhoea, among the 2100 recorded cases. This is only slightly lower than the year before, when 2071 diarrhoea cases were recorded.
There has also been a decline in the number of diarrhoea deaths in children under five between 2009 (170) and 2016 (17), the City said.
JP Smith, the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, encouraged early intervention. “The important thing is for caregivers to be vigilant for early signs of diarrhoea and know what to do,” he said.
“Health workers can only assist when a child is brought in to the clinic, so we rely heavily on parents, families and caregivers to act quickly before signs of dehydration present themselves and to be mindful of the do’s and don’ts. A critical aspect is ensuring that hands are kept clean, particularly when handling food, to minimise the spread of germs,” said Mr Smith.
The listeria bacteria can survive normal refrigeration temperatures. It is spread by eating contaminated food and can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby.
The best preventative is using only pasteurised dairy products and good basic hygiene such as:
Wash your hands thoroughly
Separate raw and cooked foods
Cook food thoroughly
Store food at safe temperatures
Use clean water and fresh food
“The City has increased its efforts to prevent further outbreaks of the disease. Our environmental health practitioners have been requested to visit the homes of people diagnosed with listeriosis.
The City Health laboratory is now also equipped to analyse listeria as part of the sampling regime and will focus on higher-risk foods by means of a sampling project from time to time.
“We will also ramp up our health promotion efforts in communities and at clinics,” Mr Smith said.