In a follow-up on the listeriosis outbreak that has affected South Africa since the beginning of 2017, as of 20 February 2018, 915 laboratory-confirmed cases of listeriosis have been reported to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD). So far the outbreak has already claimed 172 lives. Unfortunately, the source of the outbreak still remains unknown.
Gauteng Province accounts for 59% of reported cases, followed by Western Cape (12%) and KwaZulu-Natal (7%) provinces.
Listeria is a bacterium that is naturally found in the environment – it commonly occurs in soil, water, vegetation and in the feces of some animals. It can contaminate a wide variety of food types, including meat and meat products, dairy products (unpasteurized and pasteurized), fresh and frozen produce (fruits, vegetables and sprouts) and ready-to-eat products. This fact, coupled with a variable incubation period that can range from 6 hours to 70 days, poses a major challenge in determining the source of the outbreak.
Various stakeholders, including numerous government departments, the healthcare sector, the veterinary public health sector, and the food industry are working around the clock to find the source of the outbreak. Specialized tests are being conducted by experts at the NICD laboratories to assist in detecting the source as soon as possible.
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