Yesterday, the Department of Health announced that South Africa had an outbreak of listeriosis, a food-borne disease.

Listeriosis is a serious – but fortunately rare, infection which is transmitted through soil, water, vegetable and animal products. Symptoms are flu-like in nature, with fever, diarrhoea, nausea, weakness and body pains. If left untreated it can be fatal, with a statement from the department confirming that already 36 people have deceased from the outbreak. The source of it is unknown, but it is likely that it originated from contamination of food from farms or food processing plants. Over 345 cases have been reported in Gauteng, 71 in the Western Cape and 37 in KwaZulu-Natal.

Those at a higher risk of contracting listeriosis are pregnant women, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system. There is no vaccine to prevent listeriosis but residents are advised to cook food thoroughly and refrain from eating half-cooked or uncooked food – especially meat products. Consumers are advised to avoid raw and uncooked food, as well as non-pasteurised dairy products. Simple hygiene practices such as washing one’s hands and thoroughly rinsing food are advised to lower the risk of contamination.

The disease is treatable through antibiotics.

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