Source of Listeriosis outbreak not confirmed

2018 will be the year I put our health and wellbeing on the top of my priority list. The holidays are over which means its back to work, school and our busy life and schedules. With this means a healthier eating plan and exercise. In keeping with the healthier lifestyle I thought I’d share an update on the recent Listeriosis outbreak.

Listeria monocytogenes can cause an infection called Listeriosis when food contaminated with the microorganism is eaten. According to Food Safety Listeria is bacteria found in soil, water and vegetation. It can also occur in some animals, including poultry and cattle. Raw milks and foods made from raw milk can also carry the bacteria.

Listeria is unlike many other germs because it can grow even in the cold temperature of the refrigerator. Listeria is killed by cooking and pasteurization. It is important to understand that persons who are infected with Listeria pose no risk to other people as Listeria cannot be spread from person to person.


As of 12 January 2018, a total of 748 laboratory-confirmed
Listeriosis cases have been reported to NICD since 01 January 2017. Final outcome data are
available for 160 of the patients, of whom 67 have died. Most cases have been reported from
Gauteng Province, followed by Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

Sources ·         Ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs

·         Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads

·         Unpasteurized (raw) milk and dairy products

·         Soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, such as Feta, Brie, Camembert

·         Refrigerated smoked seafood

·         Raw sprouts

Incubation Period 3-70 days
Duration of Illness Days to weeks

People should seek medical attention if they experience the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • A stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • General weakness
  • Vomiting (sometimes after diarrhoea)

Most people recover within seven days. Those with a compromised immune system, older adults, infants or pregnant women require urgent medical care. Treatment involves either a course of antibiotics or fluids through an intravenous drip.

The treatment of Listeriosis is usually symptomatic and depends on the severity of the disease. If your infection is severe, antibiotics may be recommended.

Home remedies include:

  • Plenty of clear fluids such as water and tea
  • The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple sauce, toast) and other bland foods that won’t irritate the stomach
  • Bed rest
  • Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk.
  • Be careful of foods that contain raw milk.
  • Practice good hygiene in the kitchen.
  • Wash your hands regularly, and make sure cutting boards, cutlery and crockery are cleaned properly.
  • Thoroughly cook animal foods such as meat, poultry or fish. Rather overcook than undercook.
  • Keep an eye on the expiry dates of perishable foods. Consume as soon as possible.

Listeriosis, an infection caused by Listeria, can pose major risks for certain populations. Namely, pregnant women, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems are at greater risk. Other patients also at risk are:

  • Organ transplant patients who are receiving drugs to prevent the body from rejecting the organ
  • People with certain diseases, such as:
    • HIV/AIDS or other autoimmune diseases
    • Cancer
    • End-stage renal disease
    • Liver disease
    • Alcoholism
    • Diabetes

Pregnant women are approximately 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get Listeriosis. In pregnant women, it is typically a mild, flu-like illness. In the child, Listeriosis can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or life-long health problems.

At present, the source of the outbreak is not known, so it is uncertain which food/s may be implicated.

Cases of Listeriosis will continue to be investigated, with trace back and further investigation of any positive food/environmental samples.


References: NICD, Food Safety, INCON

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