Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announces outbreak of food borne disease in South Africa

The South African authorities are investigating an outbreak of listeriosis in the country which has so far caused the deaths of 36 people since January, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has said.South Africa's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention describes listeriosis as a serious but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium, listeria monocytogenes.

Listeriosis, commonly found in soil, water and vegetation contaminates food sources including animal and farm produce which transmit the bacteria to consumers. They could not specify the origin of the disease.

He said that infection with listeria may result in flu-like illness with diarrhoea - including fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness.

Those who contract the disease suffer the same symptoms including meningitis which is the inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, he added.

Of the 557 cases, the department of health has found the final outcome of 70 confirmed cases of Listeriosis.

Gauteng province, South Africa's economic hub, had 62 percent of the reported cases, followed by the Western Cape, which includes Cape Town, with 13 percent and KwaZulu-Natal, site of the country's main port, Durban, with 7 percent.

Environmental health officers are following up diagnosed cases and are visiting patients' homes to sample food where available, Motsoaledi said.

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.

The flag for the latest outbreak was raised in July, when Gauteng doctors from neonatal units at Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko hospitals recorded an unusually high number of babies with listeria.

The disase mainly affects newborns, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems.

"All the stakeholders are cooperating with the investigation led by the NICD".

Vanessa Coleman