Gauteng at centre of Listeriosis outbreak

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Listeriosis is marked by flu-like symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever, general body pains, vomiting, weakness, septicaemia and meningoencephalitis.

Motsoaledi said, " The disease occurs every year and is seen in our hospitals, typically 60 - 80 cases are detected and treated annually.

Of the 557 cases, the department of health has found the final outcome of 70 confirmed cases of Listeriosis.

During the briefing held at the GCIS in Hatfield today Motsoaledi explained that listeriosis is a serious but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium called listeria monocytogenes. "Animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources‚" Motsoaledi said.

Approximately 557 cases have been reported while 36 people have already died of the disease.

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Tips to avoid listeriosis, according to the World Health Organisation.

The department has not found the origin of the outbreak but suspects food contamination at the source, such as farms or food processing plants.

Pregnant women, the elderly or individuals with a weakened immune system, i.e. people in immuno-compromised status due to HIV/Aids, leukaemia, cancer, kidney transplant and steroid therapy, are at greatest risk of severe listeriosis. "The source of this outbreak is now being investigated", he said. "Environmental health officers are following up diagnosed cases and are visiting their homes to sample food where available", said Motsoaledi.

Gauteng province, South Africa's economic hub, had 62% of the reported cases, followed by the Western Cape, which includes Cape Town, with 13% and KwaZulu-Natal, site of the country's main port, Durban, with 7%.