Concerns over listeriosis continue


Last week Grocott’s Mail reported that one listeriosis-linked death had been confirmed by the Eastern Cape Department of Health. This information followed public news from Sarah Baartman District Municipality that stated two deaths had occurred as a result of the bacteria. The report stated that water was the potential source, but the claim was quickly denied by Health Department Spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo. Ongoing investigation in conjunction with the Public Service Accountability Monitoring (PSAM) has revealed new information.

According to the National Department of Health’s “Clinical Guidelines on Management and Control of Foodborne Diseases” issued in 2011 an outbreak is defined as “two or more linked patients presenting with acute gastrointestinal, neurological, hepatic or hemorrhagic manifestation after having a shared/common meal/beverage during the past 72 hours.”

At this time, Grocott’s Mail cannot confirm an outbreak of listeriosis in Grahamstown.

Though the Clinical Guidelines state that two linked patients must have consumed the contaminated source within 72 hours of expressing symptoms, infections like listeriosis are exceptions.

According to sections 4(2)f, 5(2)(e) and 6(2)(e) of the Government Gazette issued 15 December of last year, the District Health Manager is responsible to designating a “focal person” to ensure the surveillance and control of notifiable conditions. The surveillance and control of notifiable conditions is part of the Health Act No. 61.

Last week, Grocott’s Mail reported that the sub-district health manager could not be contacted for comment. At this time, no further comment has been made. In collaboration with PSAM, identification of the aforementioned “focal person” is a priority.

Nationally, provincial outbreak response teams are to be created as a way to expedite and ensure proper follow through of procedures. PSAM nor Grocott’s Mail found evidence to suggest the Eastern Cape had an outbreak response team.

In 2017, 557 cases were reported across all nine provinces, with 62 percent from Gauteng. As of 16 January, 764 cases had been reported nationally with 212 in Johannesburg (JHB). 19 January, local JHB officials were working on inspecting strains of the bacteria that had been found at a food outlet.

Grocott’s Mail spoke to three local healthcare workers confidentially and were told that informative pamphlets about listeriosis were distributed to the community within the last month by sub-district officials. One source stated that they did not believe healthcare workers at the facility had been educated about listeriosis or the correct reporting procedures. Another said that there were no posters or signs around the facility except those urging patrons to wash their hands.

The Eastern Cape Department of Health was approached regarding public awareness and education efforts but have not yet commented at this time.

The reported claim that the Grahamstown case was a result of drinking contaminated water (Sarah Baartman News) has not been confirmed and was strongly denied by Kupelo.

Grocott’s Mail and PSAM will continue to report on this issue to our readers.

  • Reporting in partnership with PSAM.


What is listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused as a result of consuming a contaminated source of food. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the US reported that the bacteria was most commonly found in foods such as soft cheeses, raw (unpasteurised) milk, processed meats, and smoked fish. Risk factors outlined in the Clinical Guidelines include environmental issues such as contaminated water, “regarded as a vehicle of transmission”.

Who is at risk?
Those most at risk include women who are pregnant, newborns, elderly individuals as well as those with immune deficiencies such as HIV or TB. In 2016, HeraldLIVE reported that Grahamstown had the largest percentage of people living with TB in the Eastern Cape.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of listeriosis infection include muscular pain, gastrointestinal distress (nausea, vomiting and diarrhea) and fever. After consuming the bacteria, victims may not display symptoms for up to 70 days. A study done in 1987 after an outbreak in the US declared the incubation period for the infection to be from three to 70 days. If diagnosed, the infection can be treated through antibiotics.

What should you do?
Visit your doctor, hospital or clinic.

What should your doctor do?
Once a person is diagnosed with listeriosis (or other notifiable conditions) a notification must be sent to the Department of Health within 24 hours. In Makana, this notification must go through the Sub-District Health Manager. On top of this, a GW17/5 form must be filled out by the lab manager(s) and immediately submitted for the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID). The NCID further traces the source of infection. Failure to comply with these measures is against regulations in Health Act No. 61.

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