Listeria monocytogenes. Picture: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
The national death toll for the listeriosis outbreak has risen to 82, according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi revealed recently that there had been 67 deaths and 748 laboratory-confirmed cases. However, NICD official Dr Juno Thomas said new data showed the number had increased to 82.

Thomas said as more cases were tracked and the outcomes recorded the “death toll will become higher”.

So far, only 238 cases had had a definite outcome where the institute was able to confirm if the patient had been cured or died from the food-borne disease.

The source of the outbreak had yet to be confirmed, but many people had since been admitted to hospital with the infection, with the highest number of cases reported in Gauteng.

“To date 34% of cases have come from the private sector and 66% from the public, and when you think that less than 20% of the population relies on private health services, it certainly is a signal that the risk is not limited to those living in poor socio-economic conditions,” Thomas said.

She added: “The sense we’re getting is that the source is a single contaminated food commodity, or small group of commodities from the same facility, that is, or are, very popular and accessible to all South Africans.”

Thomas added that the contaminated food source was unlikely to be a “luxury product” like soft cheeses or seafood, but rather something widely consumed such as processed meats or dairy products.

She said the NICD could not, however, rule out the possibility of fresh and frozen fruit or vegetables as being the culprit.

Thomas added that the NICD and Department of Health were doing “everything possible” to locate the source, including visiting the home of each patient with confirmed listeriosis infection and testing “everything and anything” in their fridges, freezers and cupboards. 

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