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

Hospital ward in South Africa's Kwa Zulu Natal. Source Africa Doctors

South Africa is battling an outbreak of a bacterium disease which has killed 36 people across the country out of the over 500 cases recorded last month.

Of the 557 cases, "we are certain of the final outcome (discharge or death) for 70 cases".

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi called on South Africans to be vigilant and immediately report flu-like symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, general body pains and weakness at the nearest hospital. Gauteng is the worst hit with 62% of cases, 37% in Western Cape and 7% in KwaZulu Natal. Annually, 60-80 cases are spotted and treated. "The remaining 18 per cent is distributed in the remaining six provinces", Motsoaledi said.

"The bacteria is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil‚ water and vegetation".

Listeriosis is a foodborne illness associated with a wide variety of foods, including dairy, meat, vegetables, fruit, and ready-to-eat products.

The disase mainly affects newborns, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems. However, in July 2017 doctors from neonatal units in Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Academic hospitals alerted the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) about unusually high number of babies with listeriosis.

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.

The source of this outbreak is now being investigated, and all the stakeholders are cooperating with the investigation led by the NICD.

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