South Africa has reported more than 900 confirmed listeriosis cases and 172 deaths in an outbreak that began in the beginning of 2017.
The outbreak, described as the largest documented listeriosis outbreak South Africa has ever experienced, has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a travel notice recently.
Most cases have been reported in Gauteng, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.
CDC says listeriosis primarily affects pregnant women and their newborns, people 65 years or older, and people with weakened immune systems. One in five people with listeriosis die. Pregnant women typically experience a mild illness, but infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn. It’s rare for people outside these groups to get Listeria infection.
What can travelers do to prevent listeriosis?
Travelers to South Africa should be aware that foods more likely to be contaminated with Listeria include soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, certain ready-to-eat meats (such as hot dogs, pâtés, lunch meats, and cold cuts), refrigerated smoked seafood, melons, raw or lightly cooked sprouts, and raw (unpasteurized) milk and other raw dairy products.
Travelers to South Africa may wish to avoid these foods or take other steps to reduce the risk of infection, such as heating hot dogs and deli meats to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot just before serving. This is especially true for high-risk travelers, including pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
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