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The Department of Health has issued a warning on an outbreak of food-borne disease Listeriosis.

An outbreak of food-borne listeria bacteria has claimed 36 lives and infected nearly 600 people in South Africa, the health minister said Tuesday, warning that newborns and the elderly are particularly vulnerable.

"Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium listeria monocytogenes".

The disease is found in soil, water and contaminated food and is spread through eating contaminated food products such as raw or unpasteurised milk and soft cheeses, but also vegetables, processed foods, ready-to-eat meats and smoked fish products, said the NICD.

Motsoaledi said, " The disease occurs every year and is seen in our hospitals, typically 60 - 80 cases are detected and treated annually.

Motsoaledi says newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weak immunity are at high risk of getting listeriosis.

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"The source of this outbreak is now being investigated, and all the stakeholders are cooperating with the investigation led by the NICD (National Institute for Communicale Diseases)", he said.

The country's health department confirmed the outbreak at a press conference on Tuesday stating that the majority of the 557 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases were coming from the Gauteng province. This triggered a review of all cases diagnosed in both public and private hospitals.

The disease causes flu-like symptoms and can lead to nausea, diarrhoea, infection of the blood stream and brain.

Motsoaledi says the exact source of the outbreak is under investigation.

Members of the public are advised to call the NICD Emergency Operations Centre during working hours on 011 386 2000.


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