Listeriosis Listeria Woolworths

An up-close photo of the bacteria (NICD)

Listeriosis update: Cases rise as eight more deaths recorded this week

More sad news from the NCID

Listeriosis Listeria Woolworths

An up-close photo of the bacteria (NICD)

The outbreak of Listeriosis remains a serious threat to South Africa, as the death toll from the bacterial disease climbed even higher this week.

Listeriosis has now claimed the lives of 182 people. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID) report that a total of 915 cases have now been recorded, with 19.8% of them resulting in death.

Who does Listeriosis affect the most?

The disease mainly affects newborn children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. Approximately half of the deaths caused by Listeriosis are babies aged 12 months and under.

Listeria is a bacterium that is naturally found in the environment – it commonly occurs in soil, water, vegetation and in the faeces of some animals. As we consume produce via the food chain, humans can be at risk of contracting the illness.

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.

Which areas are worst affected by Listeriosis?

Gauteng is worst hit by the crisis, with 59% of all cases occurring in the province. The next most affected region is the Western Cape, where 12% of cases have been recorded.

The source for this particular outbreak is yet to be found. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has sent a food safety expert to South Africa to identify its point of origin.

Listeriosis results from raw food sources and ready to eat foods like fruit, vegetables and deli meats which have been contaminated by the Listeria bacteria. You can keep yourself safe from the disease by heating food above 74C / 165F, and thoroughly washing down food preparation surfaces.