In the world’s largest recorded listeriosis outbreak, South Africa has added four more confirmed cases and four more deaths, the National Listeria Incident Management Team reports. 

The team’s latest report brings the confirmed death toll in the outbreak to 208 out of 1,038 confirmed cases through May 22, 2018.

The team was set up by South Africa’s Ministry of Health, which has been combatting the outbreak since this past year.

The number of new outbreak cases has steadily declined since the implicated products were recalled beginning on March 4, 2018. That’s when Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, minister of health for South Africa, announced the source of the outbreak as ready-to-eat processed meat products manufactured at Enterprise Foods’ Polokwane production facility. Known as polony in that region of the world, the products are similar to baloney and hot dogs.

According to the team, their description of the whole genome sequence data related to this outbreak has been accepted for publication in the journal Genome Announcements.

In addition to finishing the outbreak work, the team is collating risk assessments on all meat processing plants in South Africa and drawing up a schedule for inspections.   Risk communication and community engagement activities were also recently conducted in the Northern Cape Province. Training was conduct in the Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape provinces from May 22 to 24. At the same time, two food processing facilities in two provinces were inspected by the team.

The latest report also outlines the three parts of the Emergency Response Plan developed by the multi-sectorial incident management team (IMT), which is also being implemented.

“The aim of the plan is to control and end the current listeriosis outbreak, and to strengthen systems to facilitate prevention and early detection of outbreaks,” the report says.

The additional activities under the Emergency Response Plan include three parts.

  •  Phase 1: Development of the ERP, communication of the plan with provincial and district stakeholders, development of material and training of staff to support inspections of facilities identified as at-risk food processing plants; 
  • Phase 2: Inspection of at-risk food processing plant and strengthening the capacity of district environmental health practitioners;
  • Phase 3: Reporting and consolidation of health system strengthening activities, and after action review. 

A consolidated report on the destruction of recalled products is expected shortly.   Destruction of all recalled products should occur by the end of June.

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