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Widespread Outbreak of Listeriosis in South Africa (Update 1)

21 February 2018

The World Health Organisation reports that the country-wide outbreak of listeriosis is continuing. This is the largest outbreak of listeriosis ever recorded: from 4 December 2017 to 14 February 2018 there have been been 872 cases, including 164 deaths.

Most cases have been reported from Gauteng Province (59%), Western Cape (13%) and KwaZulu-Natal (7%) provinces. Forty-three percent of cases are babies younger than month.

The source of the outbreak has not been identified but is likely to be a widely available food item. Investigations are ongoing.

Advice to Travellers

Listeriosis is usually self limiting but can be a serious disease and is especially dangerous to pregnant women, infants, elderly people, transplant patients, people with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions. Anyone in these groups who may be infected should seek medical attention. Symptoms include: fever, myalgia and arthralgia, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhoea.

Food should be chosen that is freshly cooked to a high temperature and served immediately while still hot. Meat and vegetables should be thoroughly cooked and eaten hot whenever possible. Fruit should be peeled.

Avoid the following:

  • Leftovers and reheated meat
  • Ready-to-eat cooked meats and sausage
  • Pâté or meat spreads
  • Unpasteurized milk and dairy products e.g. soft cheese.
  • Refrigerated uncooked seafood
  • Raw vegetables or salad
  • Contact with infected people eg through food handling
  • Contact with infected animals

See Food and Water Precautions.