Speaking at a press conference, Dr Motsoaledi said that while listeria is a serious disease, it can be treated with antibiotics.The bacteria is found in soil, water and vegetation, and contaminates food sources such as animal products and fresh produce.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi addresses media in Pretoria on the outbreak of food borne disease listeriosis.
"Most cases (62%, or 345 cases) have been reported from Gauteng‚" Motsoaledi said.
People with compromised immune systems, like some of those living with AIDS and pregnant women, are also at a heightened risk, according to the World Health Organization. "The source of this outbreak is now being investigated and all stakeholders are cooperating with the investigation led by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases", the minister said.
By the end of last month, 557 cases had been confirmed, compared with about 80 cases annually in past years, the department said.
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Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi called on South Africans to be vigilant and immediately report flu-like symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, general body pains and weakness at the nearest hospital. That triggered a review of all cases diagnosed in both public and private hospitals. We had never exited 100 per annum, that is why we believe we have an outbreak.
An outbreak of listeriosis has claimed 36 lives in South Africa, health authorities said on Tuesday.
The Western Cape had reported 71 cases, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 37 cases.
"We are satisfied that the government is now instituting investigations to understand how the outbreak is being transmitted".
Listeriosis is a foodborne illness associated with a wide variety of foods, including dairy, meat, vegetables, fruit, and ready-to-eat products.