NICD says cause of listeriosis outbreak ‘elusive’; fears that Day Zero ill fan outbreak

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The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) listeriosis update says that the source of the outbreak remains elusive.

NICD Summary:


The outbreak continues, with 53 additional cases recorded since the last update. However, 13 of these cases occurred during 2017and have been
retrospectively reported.
Outcome data is now available for 29% (238/820) of cases, of which 34% (82/238) died.

At present, the source of the outbreak is not known. Municipal Environmental Health Practitioners in all provinces have embarked on systematic inspection and sampling of meat &
poultry production, processing,and packaging facilities.

Meanwhile, fears are growing that listeriosis will be given added momentum in Cape Town by “day zero”. The Times reports that experts predict that hand-washing, the food-borne infection’s most potent enemy, will take a dive after taps run dry, and hand sanitisers are not as effective against the bug.

According to Thomas, “as a preventive measure against food-borne disease, unfortunately there is no substitute for thorough (hand)washing with soap and water”. This is because while handling food, “you will often come into contact with grease or oil and food particles and dirt, which can harbour the bacteria and are not effectively removed simply by using, for example, hand sanitisers”.

Fingernails, and the crevices around rings and jewellery, could carry the listeria bacteria without a hand sanitiser cleaning there as thoroughly as soap and water would.

Professor Mark Nicol, a medical microbiologist at the University of Cape Town, said inadequate cleaning of utensils and surfaces was another risk. This was particularly true of surfaces where raw food (such as poultry) has been prepared. “Raw and cooked food must be separated and different utensils and surfaces used,” he said. It is also possible that “hygiene practices by food producers might be compromised by water restrictions”.

Nicol said: “We need to pay careful attention to maintaining hand and kitchen hygiene during the drought, both in our homes and in the food industry, otherwise we will be at significantly increased risk of listeria and other food-borne illnesses.”

Latest NICD listeriosis situation update
Bhekisisa report
The Times report

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