Listeriosis UK

Flickr / NIAID

Listeriosis death toll up to 107 according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases

The main source of the biggest Listeriosis outbreak in history is yet to be established.

Listeriosis UK

Flickr / NIAID

Listeriosis has so far claimed 107 lives, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) revealed on Tuesday.

The institute announced that the number of confirmed cases since the outbreak has risen to 852, with 59% of those reported from Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape (13%) and Kwa-Zulu Natal with 7%.

Of those cases, only 355 have a known outcome and, based on those, the death rate is a rather high 30%.

Pregnant women and infants are the most vulnerable to the bacteria and, since the outbreak 42% of confirmed cases have been babies less than a month old.

Listeriosis is contracted from consuming food contaminated with pathogen listeria and, though the source of the recent outbreak remains unconfirmed, it is believed to be a food product, possibly a range of products from one company.

Food safety expert Dr Lucia Anelich suspects that the source of the current outbreak is a food that is quite popular in the country.

The bacteria is widely found in ready-to-eat foods which consumers by from the stores and consume without heating or cooking – such as cold meats, cooked chicken and such.

“Deli meats are obviously consumed by a wide variety of people in the population‚ whether it’s a cheaper cut or a more expensive one‚” Anelich says.

Upon contracting listeriosis, symptoms can take up to 30 days to develop and include vomiting and diarrheoa.

The outbreak has spread out to various provinces and, last Thursday, two patients in the North West were confirmed to have succumbed to listeriosis.

“We lost one patient in Klerksdorp and another in Rustenburg, we got another on admitted now in Klerksdorp. Listeriosis has always been a disease that has been there, it responds to ordinary drugs, its easy to treat, you can kill it with penicillin, the difficulty is to detect it,” the province’s health MEC, Magome Masike said.

Municipal environmental health practitioners in all provinces are systematically inspecting and taking samples at food production‚ processing and packaging facilities.

Also read: Listeriosis outbreak: Where in South Africa are you most likely to catch the disease?