Listeriosis outbreak ‘largest ever in South Africa’

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Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 16 January 2018| 28 Rabi ul Aakhir 1439

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), six more people have died after contracting listeria.

The NICD said it is the largest documented listeriosis outbreak South Africa has ever experienced.

They said all available resources are being directed to outbreak investigation activities and interventions.

The departments of Health, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Trade and Industry are working closely with agriculture and food industry stakeholders to intensify investigation efforts aimed at identifying the possible source of the outbreak while enhancing food safety interventions.

The NICD recently confirmed 748 cases and that 67 people have died. Most of the cases were reported in Gauteng followed by the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

A total of 18 people have died due to the listeria outbreak in the Western Cape. This comes after 92 people contracted the disease in the province.

It commonly occurs in soil, water, vegetation and in the faeces of some animals. It can contaminate a wide variety of food types, including meat and meat products, dairy products (unpasteurised and pasteurised), fresh and frozen produce (fruits, vegetables and sprouts) and ready-to-eat products.

This fact, coupled with a variable incubation period that can range from 6 hours to 70 days, poses a major challenge in determining the source of the outbreak.

Listeria is a bacterial pathogen which can trigger diarrhoea.

The Listeria bacterium can survive in normal temperatures associated with refrigeration (4°C).

Gareth-Lloyd Jones, the chief commercial officer at Ecowize – South Africa’s leading specialised hygiene and sanitation service provider for the food, pharmaceutical and health-care industries – said anyone can be affected.

He stressed that proper hygiene when preparing food was essential in minimising the chance of contracting the disease.

“It is essential that South Africans become more aware of the risks associated with food contamination and that they practise caution when handling food products, not only during times of disease outbreaks such as this but in their everyday lives.”

He said while anyone can be affected, certain groups are at a higher risk.

“This includes newborns, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals such as pregnant women and their unborn babies as well as people who have existing conditions such as HIV, diabetes, cancer and chronic liver or kidney disease.”

Source – IOL News