Doctors could not have detected Listeriosis sooner – Minister


Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says doctors could not have detected the Listeriosis outbreak sooner. Speaking in the National Assembly in Parliament on Thursday, he said the Listeriosis outbreak started in June 2017 and doctors at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and Steve Biko Academic Hospital picked it up the following month.

“They could not have picked it up faster. The month of June, according to this analysis, is the month in which Listeria laboratories confirmed cases started differing substantially from the month-to-month figures of 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 itself,” he said.

The Minister at the weekend announced that the source of the outbreak, which has claimed 180 lives, was traced back to an Enterprise processing plant in Polokwane.

Addressing MPs on Thursday, the Minister explained that Listeriosis is a disease caused by a bacterium. “Listeriosis is widely found in nature. It can be found in soil, water, vegetation or faeces of some animals,” Motsoaledi said

From these sources, it could contaminate food from four different areas: the food production site (farms and abattoirs); food processing factories; food packaging sites or food preparation at restaurants, hotels or individual homes. A person became infected when they ingested contaminated food.

This may result in three groups of symptoms or signs:

  • Patients may get flu-like symptoms – headaches, general body pains, sometimes vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach aches.
  • Patients may get infection of the blood stream. This is called septicaemia and it is deadly.
  • Patients can get infection of the brain and the membrane covering the brain and the spinal cord, called meningitis.

The Minister said the disease occurred annually in South Africa and that doctors typically saw 60 to 80 patients per annum. This had been the case for the past 40 years.

“Although anyone of us can get Listeria, those who are found highly vulnerable are four groups of people – pregnant women because they don’t have a very strong immunity; newborns in the first 28 days of life because they get it from their mothers; elderly people above the age of 65; people with supressed immunity like people living with HIV and Aids, diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease, people on chemotherapy and people who have undergone transplants and are on immunosuppression therapy to avoid organ rejection.”

“The disease is treatable with an antibiotic called ampicillin which is widely available in our health facilities, both public and private,” he said.

The Minister said by 2 March 2018, the number of laboratory confirmed cases had reached 948. Of these 948, a total of 569 patients had been traced with 180 who had unfortunately died.

This constituted 27% case fatalities. The case fatality rate for countries with Listeria was 30%. –


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