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10 Mar 2018, Cape Town: Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says the narrative which seeks to imply that government was slow to respond to the Listeriosis outbreak is incorrect.
Speaking in the National Assembly in Parliament on Thursday, the Minister said according to data analysis, the Listeriosis outbreak started in June 2017 and doctors at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and Steve Biko Academic Hospital picked it up in July the following month.
“They could not have picked it up faster than that. The month of June, according to this analysis, is the month in which Listeria laboratories confirmed cases started differing substantially from the month-to-month figures of 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 itself,” he said.
The Minister at the weekend announced that the source of the outbreak, which has claimed 180 lives, was traced back to an Enterprise processing plant in Polokwane.
Addressing MPs on Thursday, the Minister said Listeriosis is a disease caused by a bacterium, not a virus.
“You get it when you ingest food contaminated with this bacterium. Listeriosis is widely found in nature. It can be found in soil, water, vegetation or faeces of some animals.
“From these sources, it can contaminate food from four different areas. One, from the food production site – that is the farms and the abattoirs - or from the food processing factories or from the food packaging sites or even from the food preparation at restaurant hotels or even in individual homes.”
The contaminated food gets into a person’s mouth and infection takes place.
This may result in three groups of symptoms or signs:
Firstly, patients may get flu-like symptoms - headaches, general body pains, sometimes vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach aches.
Secondly, patients may get infection of the blood stream. This is called septicaemia and it is deadly.
Thirdly, patients can get infection of the brain and the membrane covering the brain and the spinal cord, called meningitis.
“Although anyone of us can get Listeria, those who are found highly vulnerable are four groups of people – pregnant women because they don’t have a very strong immunity; newborns in the first 28 days of life because they get it from their mothers; elderly people above the age of 65; people with supressed immunity like people living with HIV and Aids, diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease, people on chemotherapy and people who have undergone transplants and are on immunosuppression therapy to avoid organ rejection.”
The Minister said the disease occurs annually in South Africa and that doctors typically see 60 to 80 patients per annum. This has been the case for the past 40 years.
“The disease is treatable with an antibiotic called ampicillin which is widely available in our health facilities, both public and private,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister said by 2 March 2018, the number of laboratory confirmed cases had reach 948. Of these 948, a total of 569 patients have been traced with 180 who had unfortunately died.
This constitutes 27% case fatalities. Of all countries that had had Listeria, the case fatality rate had always averaged 30%.