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Pregnant woman dies of listeriosis

11 December 2017 - 12:55 By Naledi Shange
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. File photo.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. File photo.

Another person has died as a result of the food-borne disease listeriosis‚ the Gauteng health department said on Monday.

Spokesperson Lesemang Matuka said a pregnant woman had died of the disease in Pretoria. Matuka said he would share more information once officials have received a report from the infection control team.

The national health department issued a warning of the listeriosis outbreak last week. At the time‚ Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said a total of 557 cases had been detected this year alone‚ with 36 deaths recorded in the last 11 months.

The country usually records 60-80 infections each year but it was not clear whether any of these had resulted in fatalities since the disease has not been deemed a notifiable disease before this year.

“Most cases (62%) have been reported from Gauteng province‚” Motsoaledi said‚ adding that the province had accounted for 345 of the cases reported.

The Western Cape had the second-most reported cases (71) followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 37 cases.

Listeriosis is a food-borne illness that is associated with eating a wide variety of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes‚ including dairy products and produce‚ fresh vegetables and fruit‚ as well as ready-to-eat products. After infection‚ the incubation period can be between three and 70 days.

Symptoms include fever‚ muscle pain‚ restlessness and sometimes nausea or diarrhoea. In at-risk patients‚ the spread of infection to the nervous system can cause meningitis‚ leading to headaches‚ confusion‚ a stiff neck‚ loss of balance or convulsions. The presence of bacteria in the blood‚ also known as bacteraemia‚ may also occur. The disease primarily affects pregnant women and their newborns‚ adults aged 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems.

Joburg public health chief Dr Baskie Desai said last week that environmental health outbreak units had been activated to monitor all food outlets and assist in educating communities on what steps to take to remain safe.

Extra precautions such as regularly washing hands when dealing with food‚ cooking food thoroughly‚ using pasteurised milk products and keeping food at safe temperatures can assist in preventing the spread of the disease.