SOUTH AFRICA – Health authorities in South Africa have warned vulnerable groups of the population, including young children and the elderly, from eating ready-to-eat meat products and unpasteurized dairy products as the Listeriosis cases hit the 945 mark at the end of February in the country.

A report issued by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) show that since January 1, 2017, the figures of reported confirmed Listeriosis cases continue to rise, with another 30 new cases in the week from February 20.

However, the report warns that data collection and cleaning of the data is ongoing and case numbers will most likely change day by day.

The report notes that at the end of hospitalisation an additional 18 cases have been confirmed, bringing the total with known outcome to 635 out of the 945, or 67% of the total patients and that 176 (19%) patients are known to have died from the disease so far.

The disease has particularly taken a blow on young children below 28 days, with 41% of the cases belonging to this age group.

The source of the outbreak has not been ascertained, although authorities say that some progress has been made in each area of the investigations to identify what led to the outbreak.

To help contain the situation, the authorities have adviced the public at risk of the disease to avoid eating processed, ready-to-eat meat products, soft cheeses, and unpasteurised milk and dairy products.

They have also adviced the general population to avoid or thoroughly cook before eating, processed, ready-to-eat meat products including viennas, polonies, russians, ham, other ‘cold’ meats, sausages, various corned meats, salami, pepperoni and similar products typically found in the processed meat sections of food retailers and butcheries.

The report says that so far, over 1500 foodstuffs from retail outlets, food processing plants and patient homes have been tested by the authorities, with over 70 food items testing positive for Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria responsible for Listeriosis.