Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has confirmed a countrywide outbreak of foodborne Listeria.
The department has not found the origin of the outbreak but suspects food contamination at the source, such as farms or food processing plants.
In a tweeted factsheet, the health ministry urged South Africans to use safe water supplies, ensure frequent hand-washing and separate raw and cooked food.
Pregnant women, the elderly or individuals with a weakened immune system, i.e. people in immuno-compromised status due to HIV/Aids, leukaemia, cancer, kidney transplant and steroid therapy, are at greatest risk of severe listeriosis. However, in July 2017 Doctors from neonatal units in the Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Academic hospitalss alerted the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) about unusually high numbers of babies with listeriosis.
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People with the disease usually suffer from a flu-like illness‚ diarrhoea accompanied by a fever‚ general body pains‚ vomiting and weakness. This triggered a review of all cases diagnosed in both public and private hospitals. We had never exited 100 per annum, that is why we believe we have an outbreak.
Out of the 557 cases reported, 345 cases were reported in Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape which reported 71 cases, and 37 cases of Listeriosis reported in KwaZulu-Natal. Motsoaledi said of those 70 cases, 36 patients have since died.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said there are over 500 confirmed laboratory cases. "The remaining 18% is distributed in the remaining six provinces‚" Motsoaledi said. "Animal products and fresh produce such as fruit can be contaminated from these sources", he said.