Deadly disease rips through South Africa


Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, said 557 Listeriosis cases had been recorded in South African hospitals between January and November 2017, raising alarm bells throughout the sector.

Thirty-six people have been confirmed dead already.

The findings follow an investigation by the Department of Health, which had been sparked by reports of unusually high numbers of cases reported at Johannesburg’s biggest hospitals this year.

“Most cases have been reported from Gauteng Province (62 percent, 345/557) followed by Western Cape (13 percent, 71/557) and KwaZulu-Natal (7 percent, 37/557),” Motsoaledi told journalists on Tuesday.

“As you can see the three provinces alone are responsible for 82 percent of the total cases.  The remaining 18 percent is distributed in the remaining six provinces,” added Motsoaledi.

Is the dramatic increase in cases cause for concern? Well, yes and know.

The numbers are unusually high, which suggests authorities do not have a firm handle on the outbreak. However, the disease is definitely treatable and manageable.

“Listeriosis is a serious, but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes,” said Motsoaledi.

“The bacteria is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation. Animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources,” added the Health Minister.

The Minister said South Africans needed to look out for the following symptoms.

– Flu like illness with diarrhoea including fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness
– Infection of the blood stream which is called septiceamia
– Meningoencephalitis (infection of the brain)

“Although anyone can get Listeriosis,  those at high risk of developing severe disease include newborns, the elderly, pregnant women, persons with weak immunity such as HIV, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease,” added Motsoaledi.

Reflecting on how this disease came under the microscope again, Motsoaledi said: “In July 2017 doctors from neonatal units in the Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Academic hospitals alerted the NICD  about unusually high numbers of babies with listeriosis.”

“This triggered a review of all cases diagnosed in both public  and private hospitals.”