Health Dept investigating source of listeriosis outbreak

Tips to avoid listeriosis according to the World Health Organisation. Graphic Lance Witten  Cape Argus

Also on Tuesday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi assured South Africans that his department, together with other concerned departments, will work hard to manage food safety in the country.

That is as much as 10 times the usual annual rate of 60-80 cases recorded. Gauteng is the worst hit with 62% of cases, 37% in Western Cape and 7% in KwaZulu Natal.

Approximately 557 cases have been reported while 36 people have already died of the disease.

"As you can see the three provinces alone are responsible for 82% of the total cases".

Listeriosis is a preventable disease caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria that is typically transferred through contaminated food and is readily treatable with antibiotics.

This can lead to septicaemia and meningoencephalitis‚ which is an infection of the brain.


The virus is found in soil, water and vegetation.

"From these sources, the following foodstuffs can be contaminated and cause the disease: meat and all animal products, fruits and vegetables".

Motsoaledi says newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weak immunity are at high risk of getting listeriosis.

The course of the contamination is being investigated but authorities believe it is most likely farms and agriculture or food processing plants.

"However, in July this year, doctors from neonatal units in Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Academic hospitals alerted the National Institute for Communicable Diseases about the unusually high numbers of babies with listeriosis".

Environmental health officers are following up diagnosed cases and are visiting patients' homes to sample food where available, Motsoaledi said.

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