Health minister’s advice on Listeriosis
HEALTH Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has made it clear that authorities were prepared provide information, data and advise to families who wish to litigate following the outbreak of the deadly Listeriosis.
In Limpopo, 48 cases of Listeriosis have so far been reported with nine deaths recorded. Almost 34 of the cases were picked up from private hospitals whilst the other 14 were from the public sector.
Addressing the Limpopo Legislature this week, Motsoaledi blamed the slow cooperation between private laboratories and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) as the cause of the delay in detecting the unprecedented outbreak of the deadly disease which has so far killed 180 people across the country.
Motsoaledi said the NICD could not gain direct access to tests results from private laboratories: “The problem was encountered with private laboratories because they are not part of the NHLS (National Health Laboratory Service) and hence NICD has no direct access to their data. Their information started trickling in only by September 2017, especially data from 2013 which they did not necessarily keep at hand because they were not obliged to notify.”
He said doctors from neonatal units at Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Academic Hospitals alerted the NICD about unusually high numbers of babies with Listeriosis, which they were not really used to seeing.
“Because there is no notifiability data to make a conclusion, NICD started gathering data. They contacted all laboratories in our network of about 265 public laboratories under the NHLS. This was easy because the NICD is part of the NHLS and hence has access to all the data of the NHLS. By November 2017, the NICD had collated data that showed 557 laboratory-confirmed Listeriosis cases, which have been reported from all provinces,”he said.
Motsoaledi revealed that the number of laboratory-confirmed cases had reached 948 by 2 March, of which 659 patients were traced and out of which 180 of them had died.
Explaining the disease was traced to ready-to-eat processed meat products such as polony, sausages, viennas and other cold meats, Motsoaledi said: “While the search was continuing in the various entities along the foof-chain, on Friday 12 January 2018, nine children under the age of 5 presented to Chris Hani Bara Hospital with febrile gastroenteritis, i.e fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach-aches. Listeria was isolated from stools of one of them.
“Environmental health practitioners were dispatched to a crech in Soweto where the kids came from. The kids had eaten polony from Enterprise and chicken sausage from Rainbow Foods in Sasolburg. Teams then rushed to Enterprise in Polokwane and Rainbow in Sasol. Listeria was found in both.”
Motsoaledi warned that the recall of the products does not mean members of the public must stop obeying general food hygiene rules.
“The recall does not mean that members of the public must now relax and stop obeying general food hygiene rules. For those who might not have heard about them, there are five food safety rules which members of the public must obey all the time, but especially during an outbreak of a foodborne disease as we have now,” he said.