There have been reported cases of food-borne disease listeriosis in the Nelson Mandela Bay‚ OR Tambo‚ Amathole and Sarah Baartman municipalities.
Eastern Cape health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo confirmed this yesterday, reacting to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s announcement on Tuesday of a countrywide outbreak.
Sizwe said reporting and diagnosing of the disease were critical in the first 24 hours.
According to Motsoaledi, people with the disease usually suffer from a flu-like illness‚ diarrhoea accompanied by a fever‚ general body pains‚ vomiting and weakness.
This leads to septicaemia (infection of the bloodstream) and meningoencephalitis‚ which is an infection of the brain.
“The bacteria is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil‚ water and vegetation. Animal products and fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources‚” Motsoaledi said.
While anyone could contract the disease‚ those more susceptible were newborns‚ the elderly‚ pregnant women and people with weak immunity‚ such as those with HIV‚ diabetes‚ cancer and chronic liver or kidney disease.
Kupelo said: “Surveillance in the province started some time ago as cases kept coming forward.”
The department was calling for strengthened surveillance of this food-borne illness that has claimed more than 36 lives in South Africa this year. Health officials were sending out messages to districts to increase community awareness, and training was taking place, he said.
Kupelo said food control and environmental health played a major role in fighting the disease. “This requires a robust approach to ensure we all prevent the ingestion of raw (unpasteurised) milk‚ soft cheeses and unwashed fruit and vegetables.
“We advise residents to also minimise the consumption of ready-to-eat meat and to prioritise basic hygiene needs.”– Additional reporting by Naledi Shange