Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has urged anyone who is displaying symptoms of Listeriosis to seek medical attention immediately following the outbreak of the disease across South Africa.
At a press briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday, Motsoaledi announced that there is an outbreak of Listeriosis which is a bacterium disease found in soil, water and vegetation, which contaminates food sources such as animal products and fresh produce.
The minister said those who contract the disease will have flu-like symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, general body pains and weakness.
He said the disease can cause Meningitis, which is an infection of the brain and Septicaemia which is an infection of the blood steam, both can be fatal.
However, Motsoaledi stressed that while the disease is serious and dangerous, it is treatable with antibiotics and urged that anyone who is showing symptoms should get medical help immediately.
"If you encounter the symptoms I've mentioned please rush to look for medical help, in other words don’t just assume and sit at home especially if you get flu like symptoms now in summer."
'Deaths will increase'
Motsoaledi said that tracing as far back as January 1, 2017 up until November 29, 557 laboratory confirmed cases have been reported.
Of the 557 cases, the department of health has found the final outcome of 70 confirmed cases of Listeriosis.
"Of these 70 cases, 36 persons have perished," said Motsoaledi.
Head of the Centre for Enteric Diseases at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Dr Juno Thomas said the number of deaths will increase as they receive final outcome data on the reported cases.
Motsoaledi added that whilst anyone can get the diseases, which has a mortality rate of between 20% - 30%, those at a high risk of developing the disease are newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weak immunity systems such as HIV or cancer sufferers.
Food safety measures
The World Health Organisation has advised on food safety measures which includes; that people should keep clean especially when handling food, food should be cooked thoroughly; raw food should not be eaten; use safe water, keep food at safe temperatures and use pasteurised milk products.
The source of the outbreak is currently being investigated, but Motsoaledi said it’s believe that this particular outbreak is from a food source that is being consumed by both the rich and the poor, and the contamination points may well be farms and food processing plants.
"All the stakeholders are cooperating with the investigation led by the NICD. Environmental health officers are following up diagnosed cases and are visiting their homes to sample food where available," said Motsoaledi.
Listeria typically occurs every year with between 60 – 80 cases detected and treated annually, however, in July this year The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg and Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria alerted the NICD to unusually high numbers of babies with Listeriosis.
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.
Members of the public can contact the NICD emergency operations centre during working hours (011 386 2000) or the NICD hotline for clinical emergencies after hours (082 883 9920).