Nearly 200 deaths from listeriosis, but number of cases is steadily falling

The death toll from SA’s listeriosis outbreak is just one short of 200. Of the 199 deaths recorded so far‚ 105 were in Gauteng‚ according to an update from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

A total of 1‚019 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases have been reported to the NICD since January 1 2017.

Since the recall of implicated products on March 4‚ a total of 50 cases have been reported. Twenty-four (48%) were among neonates (babies under the age of 28 days) and three (6%) were among children aged between one month and 14 years.

The NICD said cases could still be reported because the incubation period of listeriosis can be up to 70 days, and the implicated products had a long shelf life, so it was possible that despite the recall‚ some products had not been removed from retail or consumers’ homes. Also, cross-contamination at retailers and in the home could occur.

On a positive note‚ the NICD said the number of cases of laboratory-confirmed listeriosis reported per week had decreased since the implicated products were recalled in March‚ with eight additional cases reported last week. Of the eight cases reported last week‚ one case occurred in October 2017 and was retrospectively reported‚ said the NICD.

“Since week nine (5 March 2018)‚ cases per week have dropped to fewer than 15 per week‚ with eight cases reported in week 14. At the height of the outbreak‚ 30 or more cases were reported weekly‚” the status update reported.

Overall‚ most cases have been reported from Gauteng (59%‚ 579 of 1‚019)‚ followed by the Western Cape (13%‚ 127 of 1‚019) and KwaZulu-Natal (7%‚ 73 of 1‚019).

The listeriosis outbreak was declared by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi in December. The government identified the source of the outbreak as specific, ready-to-eat processed meat products, such as polony.

An updated listeriosis emergency response plan has been developed and approved by the Department of Health‚ in order to intensify response activities to control and end the current listeriosis outbreak and strengthen health systems to prevent future outbreaks.

It is expected that more details will be provided after a two-day combined meeting of provincial and national stakeholders and World Health Organisation (WHO) technical experts‚ which will be held this week.