Health department warns of deadly disease outbreak

Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has announced that 36 people have died following an outbreak of Listeriosis in South Africa.
Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has announced that 36 people have died following an outbreak of Listeriosis in South Africa.

MINISTER of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has announced that 36 people have died following an outbreak of Listeriosis in South Africa.  The serious infection is mainly  caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria listeria monocytogenes which is found in soil, water and vegetation. Animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources.

Motsoaledi said tracing from 1 January to 29 November 2017, a total of 557 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases have been reported from all provinces.

“Most cases have been reported from Gauteng with 62 per cent, followed by Western Cape with 13 per cent and KwaZulu-Natal with seven per cent. As you can see the three provinces alone are responsible for 82 per cent of the total cases. The remaining 18 per cent is distributed in the remaining six provinces,” Motsoaledi said.

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The disease is treatable and preventable and is caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes. 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 septiceamia and meningoencephalitis (infection of the brain).

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

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Listeria monocytogenes occurs every year, typically 60 – 80 cases are detected and treated annually. However, in July 2017 doctors from neonatal units in Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Academic hospitals alerted the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) about unusually high number of babies with listeriosis. This triggered a review in both public and private hospitals.

Motsoaledi said the source of this outbreak is currently being investigated, and all the stakeholders are cooperating with the investigation led by the NICD.

“While we continue with the investigation, the WHO has advised that we wash our hands before handling food. We also need to cook food thoroughly, especially meat products and to use pasteurised milk products,” Motsoaledi concluded. 

 

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Northglen News/ Bhekumndeni Kunene

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