Listeriosis Outbreak In South Africa Kills At Least 36 People


South African Minister of Health Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Tuesday morning that a total of 557 confirmed cases of Listeriosis have been reported, according to Eyewitness News.

Times Live reported that the majority of confirmed cases, 345 in total, were reported in the province of Gauteng. Gauteng along with the Western Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal are responsible for 82 percent of reported cases, with the latter two provinces reporting 71 and 37 cases respectively.

According to News 24, Motsoaledi said that they had traced 70 patients, of whom 36 have died. South Africa usually only records 60 to 80 cases of Listeriosis per year.

eNCA stated that although the disease can be fatal, it can be treated with antibiotics. According to Huffington Post SA, those most vulnerable to the disease are the elderly, children, and newborns as well as those who are ill. About Listeria warns that persons who take glucocorticosteroid medications such as cortisone are also at increased risk of contracting the disease. The virus is found in water, soil, and vegetation.

Motsoaledi, according to IOL, warned the public that animal products and fresh produce such as fruits can be contaminated. He urged the public to store food at safe temperatures and to wash their hands before and during food preparation. The pathogen multiplies best at temperatures ranging between 30 – 37 degrees Celsius but also multiplies better at refrigerator temperatures than other types of pathogens.


Members of the public can contact the NICD during working hours at 011-386-2000, whereas health workers can call the NICD Hotline for Clinical Emergencies after hours at 082-883-9920.


Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. According to WebMD, The symptoms include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. Infection can spread to the nervous system, which can cause symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and/or convulsions. The bacterium can also cause meningitis and/or encephalitis (brain infection) according to Food Poison Journal. Infected pregnant women may, however, experience only a mild, flu-like illness. The fetus can become infected with the bacterium, leading to spontaneous abortion, stillbirths, or sepsis (blood infection) in infancy. Apart from transmission from a mother to a fetus, human to human transmission has never been observed.

Listeria monocytogenes was first documented by Dr. Everitt Murray, according to Austin Community College. Dr. Murray first named the pathogen Bacterium monocytogenes. It was later renamed as Listeria monocytogenes to honor Dr. Joseph Lister, the person responsible for discovering the importance of sterilizing surgical instruments before operating on patients.

How the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes
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