Listeriosis in South Africa 

Listeriosis is a serious but rare infection, it is mainly caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria listeria monocytogenes which is found in soil, water and vegetation. It is usually present in raw milk and other dairy products. People usually contract it through animal products and fresh fruits and vegetables. Listeria can thrive in cold temperatures and the only way to kill these bacteria is cooking and pasteurisation.

The symptoms of listeriosis are flu-like symptoms which can lead to nausea, diarrhoea, infection of the bloodstream and brain.

People at a greater risk severe listeriosis are pregnant women, the elderly or individuals with a weakened immune system, i.e. people in immuno-compromised status due to HIV/Aids, leukaemia, cancer, kidney transplant and steroid therapy.

Listeriosis can be diagnosed by running a blood test for listeria. In some cases, it may be necessary to get a spinal fluid or urine sample.

Listeriosis treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. Mild listeriosis usually goes away on its own and severe symptoms require oral antibiotics.

Listeriosis can be best prevented by eating hot, cooked foods, washing hands and raw vegetables thoroughly and by avoiding raw, uncooked, non-pasteurised dairy products.

According to the minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi the listeriosis death toll has risen to 61 since the outbreak was announced in early December 2017. The minister said the genome sequencing was being carried out to shed light on the source of the outbreak.

The Gauteng province still has the most cases of listeriosis, with 442 out of the 727 confirmed cases. The Western Cape was second with 92 confirmed cases.

These cases are traceable because they occur in province which have running water and have a functional health care system – how many people are dying from listeriosis in provinces like the North West which don’t have water and very poor health services? 

People are told to wash their hands and should also use ‘safe’ water – is there safe water in the North West province, is there safe water in Kwa-Zulu Natal? What about the state of health care services in such provinces – if peopke don’t walk long distances to get to hospitals or clinics which are in poor conditiobs, there’s no medication or doctors and nurses are not enough to assist patients. 

Has listeriosis really claimed 61 lives or have more lives been claimed?