Programme launched to trace listeriosis among pregnant women

Pregnant women, infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems have been identified as vulnerable groups.

Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi updates the media on the status of the current listeriosis outbreak in the country on 8 January 2018. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - The Health Department has launched a programme to monitor pregnant women for any trace of listeriosis.

At an update briefing on Monday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that babies under one-month-old account for close to 40% of those worst affected by the disease.

Pregnant women, infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems have been identified as vulnerable groups.

Motsoaledi says while infants are worst affected by listeriosis, it is clear that they are infected by their mothers at birth.

“Of all the neonates (newborns) that are affected, about 96% get the disease between birth and the [first] six days of life.”

He says the Mom Connect programme helps government check on the mother's pregnancy and monitors the baby's progress after birth.

“Today I’ve given the instruction that all of them get the instructions about listeria. We are calling on more pregnant women to register on Mom Connect.”

Motsoaledi says almost two million pregnant women have been registered to the Mom Connect and health facilities have been advised to intensify antenatal care.

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The Department says it's working hard to trace the source of listeriosis.

Motsoaledi announced the department has added listeriosis to the list of notifiable diseases.

The minister says this strain of bacteria has not yet been linked to a particular foodstuff or food production site.

He's also announced that a total of 61 deaths have been recorded.

Motsoaledi says officials are collecting as many samples as possible from food production sites in provinces worst hit by the disease.

“All food production sites in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape need to be identified. We’ll continue the search there. That will be food processing plants and packaging sites. Agriculture has already told you they’re searching in all the abattoirs.”

Motsoaledi says the health sector is well prepared to deal with cases of listeriosis.

The minister says the disease can show itself in many ways including flu-like symptoms.

“The second one is where it's serious now, you get septicemia. Septicemia is when the bacteria is all over your blood, it has poisoned your blood. The last thing that can happen to you is to get meningitis.”

WHAT IS LISTERIOSIS?

Listeriosis is a serious, but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium, listeria monocytogenes.

It is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation.

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

The Health Department has listed the following symptoms:

• Flu-like illness with diarrhoea including fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness.
• Infection of the bloodstream which is called septicaemia.
• Meningoencephalitis (infection of the brain).

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)