At least 36 dead from Listeria in South Africa

Electron micrograph of listeria monocytogenes bacterium in tissue

It was probably spread by "a food product that is widely distributed and consumed by people across all socio-economic groups", Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.

On Tuesday‚ the Department of Health announced that South Africa had an outbreak of the food-borne disease listeriosis.

That is as much as 10 times the usual annual rate of 60-80 cases recorded.

The virus is found in soil, water and vegetation.

Tracing from the 1st of January 2017, as of 29 November 2017, a total of 557 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases have been reported from all provinces.


He explained that the disease was "a serious‚ but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium‚ Listeria monocytogenes". "Animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources‚" Motsoaledi said.

The national institute of communicable diseases (NICD) was notified of the outbreak by doctors at two Gauteng hospitals who had noticed an unusually high number of babies with Listeriosis.

Motsoaledi said the cause of the outbreak was now being investigated and urged South Africans to wash their hands and keep food at safe temperatures. "Environmental Health Officers are following up diagnosed cases and are visiting their homes to sample food where available." .

Members of the public can contact the NICD Emergency Operations Centre during working hours at 011 386 2000.

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