Johannesburg - South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says the death toll from the deadly listeriosis disease has risen from 183 to 189.
“Final outcome data is available for 70 percent (687/982) of cases, of which 28 percent (189/687) died,” said the organisation in a statement. According to the institute, the continued rise in cases of listeriosis is worrisome.
The source of the outbreak has been identified as ready-to-eat processed meat products manufactured at Enterprise Foods’ Polokwane production facility.
The recall of implicated food products was announced on 4 March 2018.
However, it is expected that new cases will continue to be reported because the incubation period of listeriosis can be up to 70 days.
The implicated food products have a long refrigeration shelf life and it is possible despite the recall that some products were not removed from retail or home settings, and consumption might occur.
The possibility of cross contamination of other types of foods in the retail or home setting may result in additional cases, it said.
NICD reaffirmed its commitment to dealing with all matters pertaining to the listeriosis outbreak saying they are operating 24 hours.
“The NICD continues to operate its 24-hour hotline for healthcare workers. All healthcare workers are requested to complete case investigation forms for case patients with listeriosis, and submit these to the NICD.
"Where clinicians suspect listeriosis but specimens (including CSF and blood) are culture negative, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based test can be performed at the NICD. PCR can also be performed on placenta samples for investigation of stillbirths or miscarriages,” the institute said.
Meanwhile, a listeria class action lawsuit has officially been launched against Tiger Brands Limited and Enterprise Foods, the companies implicated as the cause of the listeria bacteria.
Richard Spoor law firm filed the case in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Thursday last week. Richard Spoor filled the case on behalf of 10 class representative applicants, with each applicant representing a group of people affected by the outbreak.
Tiger Brands spokesperson, Nevashnee Naicker, confirmed that the organisation received the court papers and they are assessing the contents. Tiger Brands closed its Pretoria plant again after the government had instructed them to close, their spokesperson said. The company said they closed the Pretoria plant at their own will.
“The company did so voluntarily,” said the spokesperson.
In a statement, the nation’s department of agriculture said consumers must ensure that they properly cook meat to prevent more infections.
“While meat legally placed on the market by abattoirs and processing plants has been inspected and passed as safe for human consumption, care must be taken by consumers to ensure that there is no post-production contamination of the meat and that the meat is properly cooked and kept in a hygienic environment and correct temperatures," said the department of agriculture.
Meanwhile, reports say Zambia has partially lifted a ban on processed meat and dairy products from South Africa that were linked to the world’s worst outbreak of listeriosis.
The country’s Health Minister, Chitalu Chilufya, said tests done on the products were negative of the bacteria.
“Tests of at-risk foods from South African manufacturers did not reveal the presence of the bacteria that caused the deadly outbreak, listeria monocytogenes,” said Chilufya.