Listeriosis outbreak kills 41 in South Africa

Belinda Effah's Food store

The death toll from an outbreak of listeriosis (food poisoning) has risen to 41 in South Africa, health authorities said on Monday.

Listeriosis is food poisoning caused by eating foods contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes (L.monocytogenes) bacterium.

Although anyone can get listeriosis, those at high risk of developing severe disease include newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and persons with weak immunity.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), five more deaths were reported recently, all in the drought-stricken Western Cape Province including three adults and two newborns.

Early this month, the NICD had first reported 36 deaths out of the 557 laboratory confirmed cases since the beginning of this year.

The country normally records 60 to 80 cases a year.

In the Western Cape Province alone, 71 cases had been detected by November this year, the NICD said.

The relentless drought in the Western Cape Province has made the fight against the food-borne disease ever more challenging, said the NICD.

The other eight provinces have also been affected by the outbreak.

“The announcement of the outbreak, every province has mobilised their provincial outbreak response team structures in support of the national anti-listeriosis activities,’’ the NICD said.

Health authorities are scrambling to identify the sources of contamination.

There are four possible sources of listeriosis in general, which include farms, food processing plants, retail shops and food preparations at home, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said earlier.

Listeriosis is a serious, but treatable and preventable disease which is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation, animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables.

Symtoms from the food-borne disease include diarrhea, fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness.