Listeriosis outbreak in SA kills 36

The South African Government is investigating an outbreak of Listeriosis which has caused the deaths of 36 people.

At a media briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday (5 December 2017), Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, said the source of the outbreak is likely to be a food product consumed by people across all socio-economic groups.

From 1 January to 29 November 2017, a total of 557 laboratory-confirmed Listeriosis cases have been reported in all provinces.

Most cases have been reported from Gauteng with 345 (62%) cases, followed by the Western Cape with 71 cases (13%) and KwaZulu-Natal with 37 cases (7%). The remaining 18% is distributed in the remaining six provinces.

“Out of 557 cases, we are certain of the final outcome for 70 cases. Of these 70 cases, 36 persons have died,” Minister Motsoaledi said.

Of the 557 laboratory confirmed cases, 34% were from the private health facilities, and 66% were from public health facilities.

“Given that only 17% of South Africans use private health facilities, this proportion of cases from private health facilities is too high.

This indicates that the source of the outbreak is likely to be a food product that is widely distributed and consumed by people across all socio-economic groups,” said the Minister.

Although anyone can get Listeriosis, those at high risk of developing the disease include newborn babies, the elderly, pregnant women,  persons with weak immunity such as HIV, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease patients.

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The age groups that are most affected are neonates – those in the first 28 days of life – and the age group 15 – 49 years. These two groups comprise 70% of all cases.

The Minister said while Listeriosis is a serious disease, it can be treated with antibiotics. Infection with listeria may result in:

– Flu-like illness with diarrhoea including fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness

– Infection of the blood stream which is called septicaemia

– Meningoencephalitis (infection of the brain)

Generally there are four possible sources of Listeriosis – directly at origin for example a farm, a food processing plant, a retail outlet and food preparation at home.

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