Listeriosis death toll rises to 172

The National Health Laboratory Service says 915 cases of the disease have been confirmed since January 2017.

FILE: A view of the listeria bacteria. Picture: National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

JOHANNESBURG - The death toll from an outbreak of the food-borne disease listeriosis in South Africa has risen to 172.

The National Health Laboratory Service says 915 cases of the disease have been confirmed since January 2017.

The illness is caused by a bacterium found in soil, water and vegetation.

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases’ (NICD) Juno Thomas said: “We now have outcome data on 68% of all patients so far, so we can confirm that there have been 172 deaths.”

The NICD is warning the listeriosis outbreak is showing no signs of slowing down.

Thomas said: “This information has been coming in from facilities countrywide, so certainly the outbreak is continuing.”

Earlier in February, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the increase in the number of listeriosis deaths is due to follow-ups of patients who were diagnosed in 2017.

The food-borne disease is the worst documented outbreak in South Africa’s history.

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

Additional reporting by Tendani Mulaudzi.