The number of people who contracted potentially fatal listeriosis infections in Nelson Mandela Bay has risen sharply from two to nine, the Eastern Cape Department of Health said today (17/01/18).
However, residents have been assured that the city’s tap water is safe to drink.
Health superintendent-general Dr Thobile Mbengashe said reports of a potential outbreak of the food-borne disease in the metro were being compiled but, so far, there were nine laboratory-confirmed cases, one fatal.
He said the numbers had changed significantly since health authorities were compelled from December 15 to report all suspected cases.
By the end of last year, there were only two confirmed cases of listeriosis in the metro.
Mbengashe said six cases had been reported by clinics and state hospitals and three by private hospitals.
Provincial health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said residents were advised to boil tap water for drinking, not to allow babies to play in sand and to wash all food before cooking it in pre-boiled water.
Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium listeria monocytogenes and is found in soil, water, milk (both raw and pasteurised) and other dairy products, fresh and frozen produce (fruit, vegetables and sprouts) and ready-toe-at products.
Mayoral spokesman Sibongile Dimbaza assured residents that the metro’s tap water was safe.
“However, we appeal to residents to continue using precautionary measures to prevent possible new infections,” he said.
“The environmental health sub-directorate has an outbreak response which monitors potential cases of listeriosis.
“The metro is putting measures in place to test the water independently to verify the quality. The NMBM disinfects the water before supplying it.”
The symptoms of listeriosis include nausea, diarrhoea and infections of the blood and brain.
Pregnant women, the elderly, babies and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk.
According to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), mild listeriosis does not require treatment, but severe cases will require antibiotics.
There have been 767 cases countrywide since the start of last year.
However, between Saturday and yesterday, 19 more cases of the disease were confirmed.
According to the NICD, 81 people have died.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said last week South Africa was experiencing its largest documented outbreak.
Around the same time, a spokesman for the World Health Organisation said it was the biggest outbreak of the disease on record in the world.
The Department of Health said genetic testing on samples of listeria suggested that a single strain was responsible for the current outbreak.
“This implies that a single source of contamination is causing the outbreak – that is, a single, widely consumed food product, or multiple food products produced at a single facility,” it said.
The Consumer Goods Council of SA said its members had opened doors to their facilities and provided samples for tests.
“We urge consumers to continue to take the necessary measures to maintain strict hygiene, especially at home,” it said.
“This includes washing hands and keeping food at safe temperatures. All the food products manufactured and sold by our members are safe to consume and the risk of infection is minimal, if at all.
“Should consumers suspect infection, we recommend that they consult a doctor.”
Here’s what you can do:
- Use only pasteurised dairy products;
- Thoroughly cook raw food such as beef‚ pork or poultry;
- Wash hands before preparing food‚ eating and after going to the toilet;
- Wash and decontaminate kitchen surfaces and utensils regularly;
- Wash raw vegetables and fruits before eating;
- Keep food clean‚ separate raw and cooked food‚ cook thoroughly;
- Keep food at safe temperatures;
- Use safe water;
- People at high risk of listeriosis should avoid: raw or unpasteurised milk‚ dairy products containing unpasteurised milk‚ soft cheeses‚ foods from delicatessen counters (such as prepared salads or cold meats) that have not been heated or reheated adequately and refrigerated pâté.