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.
That is as much as 10 times the usual annual rate of 60-80 cases recorded. A total of 557 cases have been confirmed so far, according to health minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
Listeriosis is a type of food poisoning caused by eating foods contaminated with the bacteria listeria monocytogenes.
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People usually contract it through animal products and fresh fruits and vegetables.
A listeria infection may result in flu-like symptoms with diarrhoea, infection of the blood stream and infection of the brain.
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. Dr Motsoaledi stated 36 people have died due to the disease. "The remaining 18% is distributed in the remaining six provinces‚" Motsoaledi said.
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Motsoaledi says the department believes the outbreak's most likely possible source is contamination of food at its origin e.g. farms and agriculture as well as food processing plants.
Those who are more at risk contracting the disease are newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and people with a weak immune systems.
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).
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