Gauteng residents fear Health Dept won't cope with listeriosis outbreak

With over 900 cases confirmed through laboratory tests the food-borne disease has so far claimed 172 lives across the country.

FILE: A microscopic view of the listeria bacteria. Picture: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

JOHANNESBURG – As scientists at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) battle to find the source of the listeriosis outbreak, Gauteng residents say they fear the country's Health Department will not be able to handle the pressure as the number of patients grow.

With over 900 cases confirmed through laboratory tests, the food-borne disease has so far claimed 172 lives across the country.

The disease affects mostly new-borns which constitute 41% of current cases, pregnant women, people above the age of 65 and those living with HIV, diabetes, cancer and other illnesses that affect the immune system.

Eyewitness News has spoken to a few Gauteng residents about their concerns around the listeriosis outbreak.

Government was first alerted to the problem in July last year when doctors at the Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Hospitals voiced their concerns over an unusually high number of babies with the virus.

Since then there's been no clear indication of where the disease is coming from, but NICD head Dr Juno Thomas says every other project or investigation has been put on hold while scientists work tirelessly to make a conclusive finding.

“Listeriosis cases are notoriously difficult to investigate.”

A Gauteng resident says that he is concerned that government is not doing enough.

“So my friend’s son got a little disturbed, he wasn’t well over the weekend but because his father is lucky enough to provide for him with special treatment. But the question is how about those that don’t have the resources?”

At present, 59% of cases have been recorded in Gauteng.