People are still contracting listeriosis‚ despite product recall

Listeriosis.File Photo.
Listeriosis.File Photo.
Image: Alon Skuy

The death toll from South Africa's listeriosis outbreak is just one short of 200.

Of the 199 deaths recorded so far‚ 105 are in Gauteng‚ according to an update from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

A total of 1‚019 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases have been reported to the NICD since January 1‚ 2017.

Since the recall of implicated products on March 4‚ a total of 50 cases have been reported. Twenty-four (48%) were among neonates (babies under the age of 28 days) and three (6%) were among children age 1 month to 14 years old.

The NICD said cases could still be reported because the incubation period of listeriosis can be up to 70 days; the implicated products have a long shelf life and it is possible that despite the recall‚ some products have not been removed from retail or consumers' homes; and cross-contamination at retail and in the home can occur.

On a positive note‚ the NICD said the number of cases of laboratory-confirmed listeriosis reported per week has decreased since the implicated products were recalled last month‚ with eight additional cases reported last week. Of the eight cases reported last week‚ one case occurred in October 2017 and was retrospectively reported‚ said the NICD.

"Since week nine (5 March 2018)‚ cases per week have dropped to fewer than 15/week‚ with eight cases reported in week 14. At the height of the outbreak‚ 30 or more cases were reported weekly‚" the status update reported.

Overall‚ most cases have been reported from Gauteng province (59%‚579/1‚019)‚ followed by Western Cape (13%‚ 127/1‚019) and KwaZulu-Natal (7%‚ 73/1‚019) provinces.

The listeriosis outbreak was declared by the Minister of Health‚ Dr Aaron Motsoaledi‚ in December. The government identified the source of the outbreak as specific ready-to-eat processed meat products such as polony.

An updated Listeriosis Emergency Response Plan has been developed and approved by the health department‚ in order to intensify response activities to control and end the current listeriosis outbreak and strengthen health systems to prevent future outbreaks. It is expected more details will be provided after a two-day combined meeting of provincial and national stakeholders and WHO technical experts‚ which will be held this week.

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