Food Poison: Watch Health Minister Warn About Deadly Listeria Outbreak

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Ahead of the festive season, the South African Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has announced the outbreak of a food-borne disease called listeria.

Confirming the outbreak, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID) on Tuesday, released a report of about 557 confirmed cases from all the provinces, the majority occurring in Gauteng. Dr Motsoaledi stated 36 people have died due to the disease.

Listeria is a bacterium that causes a serious infection called listeriosis. The bacteria is commonly found in raw foods such as vegetables that are contaminated by soil and water carrying bacteria. It is also found in raw animal products, such as meat and cheese.

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When a person is infected and develops symptoms of Listeria infection, the resulting illness is called listeriosis. Babies can as well be born with this bacteria if the mother eats contaminated food during pregnancy.

Others who are easily prone to Listeria outbreak include:

  • People with weak immune systems
  • People with cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease
  • People with AIDS – People with AIDS are 300 times more likely to get sick from Listeria than people with normal immune systems
  • People who take gluticocorticosteroids such as cortisone
  • Elderly people

While some don’t show symptoms based o their strong immune system, some develop symptoms as a result of their infection. The symptoms could either be mild or severe in what is sometimes referred to as a “bimodal distribution of severity.”

Some of the major symptoms of the disease include:



  • Sudden onset of fever,
  • chills,
  • Severe headaches,
  • vomiting,
  • muscle aches, and
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhoea which lasts for 1-4 days (with 42 hours being average) and 12 bowel movements per day at its worst.

Health Minister Motsoaledi went further to explain that the illness can be treated with antibiotics but he urged South Africans to wash their hands before and during food preparation.

He also said South Africans must learn to store food at safe temperatures.

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Members of the public can contact the NICD Emergency Operations Centre during working hours at 011 386 2000.

Health workers can call the NICD Hotline for Clinical Emergencies after hours at 082 883 9920

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