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Only one more listeriosis death in last two weeks is good news in S. AfricaT

The fortnightly report by the Republic of South Africa’s Health Department is beginning to address recovery from the world worst listeriosis outbreak as the numbers of illnesses and deaths is finally settling down.

The Health Department report, prepared by the National Listeria Incident Management Team, says the listeriosis outbreak through June 5 involves 1,049 confirmed cases and 209 deaths.

In the two weeks since the last report, the outbreak totals grew by 11 illnesses and one death. Since ready-to-eat meat was identified on March 4, another 76 cases were added to the outbreak along with 26 more deaths.

South Africa has experienced a weekly decrease in the number of new cases since the contaminated processed meats were identified and recalled. Health officials knew, however, that new cases were likely to continue for a while after the source was identified. That’s because the incubation period for listeriosis is up to 70 days, because the products involved have a long shelf-life, and because of the potential of cross-contamination in both home and restaurants.

Post-recall interviews have been conducted of 52 of the 76 post recall illnesses. In 62 percent of those, the ill reported consuming polony before getting sick. When known, brands manufactured by Enterprise Foods were mentioned most often.

Nearly six in 10 of the South African listeriosis cases are from the Gauteng Province, which includes the nation’s capital of Pretoria and the principal city of Johannesburg.

South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs has certified that the recall resulted in the disposal, either by fire or landfill, of 670 tons of recalled Enterprise and Snax products. The recall tonnage includes products that were destroyed at export destinations.

Further, the government says risk assessments are in from 310 food processing facilities, including 79 meat processors, from eight provinces.

Listeriosis before 2017 in South Africa occurred in the range of 60 to 80 confirmed cases per year. A sharp increase was underway by July 2017 and Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, declared the current outbreak on Dec. 5, 2017.

Enterprise Foods’s production facility in Polokwane was named the source of the outbreak strain and product recalls began on March 4, 2018. Enterprise is owned by Tiger Brands, SA’s largest food manufacturer.

South Africa is now implementing an Emergency Response Plan developed by the incident management team. Inspection of at-risk food processing plants and training more environmental health practitioners are among the plan’s key elements.

The latest report says the 209 deaths out of 777 confirmed cases for which outcome data is available represents a 26.9 percent fatality rate. Outcome data includes information on hospital discharges, deaths, and pending outcomes.

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