Listeriosis death toll in South Africa climbs to 61

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says that Gauteng remains the hardest hit province with 442 laboratory-confirmed cases.

FILE: Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - The National Health Department has announced the death toll from an outbreak of listeriosis has risen to 61.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has delivered an update on the disease in Pretoria.

South Africa has recorded 727 cases since the beginning of last year.

Motsoaledi says that of the 119 new cases discovered since December, only five cases have been traced.

"Of the 119 new cases, we were only able to trace five. Of this five, three have passed on."

He says that Gauteng remains the hardest hit province with 442 laboratory-confirmed cases.

"The Western Cape is still number two at 13%, that means it's 92 out of the 727 cases. KwaZulu-Natal is still number three at 7%. Fifty-one of the 724 cases are in KZN."

The minister says that out of the total 727 cases, only 134 patients have so far been traced.

Listeriosis is described as a serious, but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes, and is widely distributed in nature. It can be found in soil, water and vegetation.

Animal products and fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, can also be contaminated from these sources.

Health officials says individuals at high risk of developing the severe disease include newborns, the elderly, pregnant women, persons with weak immunity such as HIV, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease.

According to the Health Department, the age groups that are most affected are neonates, that means the first 28 days of life (37%) and the age group between 15 to 49 years (33%). It states that the two groups comprise 70% of all cases.

Infection with listeria may result in the following conditions:

. Flu like illness with diarrhoea, including fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness.
. Infection of the blood stream which is called septicemia.
. Meningoencephalitis (infection of the brain).

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)