An outbreak of food-borne listeria bacteria has claimed 36 lives and infected nearly 600 people in South Africa, the health minister said Tuesday, warning that newborns and the elderly are particularly vulnerable.
Listeriosis, commonly found in soil, water and vegetation contaminates food sources including animal and farm produce which transmit the bacteria to consumers.
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 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".
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Symtoms from the food-borne disease include diarrhoea, fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness. "Environmental health officers are following up diagnosed cases and are visiting their homes to sample food where available", said Motsoaledi. We had never reached a number of 557 before.
"Given that only 17 percent of South Africans use private health facilities, this proportion of cases from the private health facilities is too high". The province accounted for 345 of all the reported cases, said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. "In the meantime, it is important for the public to know how they can prevent the spread of this outbreak", said Chatora. "The remaining 18% is distributed in the remaining six provinces‚" Motsoaledi said.
Listeriosis is a foodborne illness associated with a wide variety of foods, including dairy, meat, vegetables, fruit, and ready-to-eat products.