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8 January 2018

TO: All Stakeholders
FROM: Dr Aaron Motsoaledi

Minister of Health

Media statment by the Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi regarding the update on the Listeriosis outbreak in South Africa

 ...

This media conference is about updating the nation on the current outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa.

Again, I must emphasise that listeriosis is a serious, but preventable and treatable disease caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes. The bacteria are widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water, vegetation and the faeces of some animals.

Animal products (including meat, meat products, dairy products), seafood and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources.

To understand where we stand now, it will be important for me to do a quick recap of what transpired at the last press conference which we held on 5 December last year in this venue.

We informed you that tracking back from 1st January 2017, as of 29 November 2017, there were a total of 557 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases that were reported from all provinces.

Exactly a month later, i.e as of 5 January 2018, the situation is as follows:

... 

We appeal to all health workers to do the following:

SPECIAL REQUEST TO HEALTH WORKERS AND THE PUBLIC AT LARGE

In December 2017 we reported that whilst Listeria can affect anybody from any socio-economic backgrounds, there are certain categories of people who are specifically vulnerable. These are neonates, i.e less than 28 days of life, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems - e.g people living with HIV and AIDS, Diabetes, and chronic diseases like cancer, kidney and liver diseases.

However, when we view statistics of affected people, we note that of all these vulnerable groups, neonates are the worst affected, if we analyse it by age group from birth to 93 years. In this case, neonates alone account for close to 40% of these cases.

Of note is that of all the neonates that get affected, 96% had early onset disease, i.e from birth to 6 days after birth. It is clear that these neonates are simply vulnerable due to their pregnant mothers. They are infected by their mothers at birth.

Due to this high number of neonates, a special request to health workers and the public at large, is to pay special attention to all pregnant women. Have a high index of suspicion whenever dealing with a pregnant woman or a neonate. Be alert all the time, be it at antenatal clinic, labour ward, and neonatology units.

There are 1,2 million pregnant women in South Africa annually. In 2014, we launched a special programme called MomConnect, whereby we register every pregnant woman on the cellphone. We send them messages every two weeks commensurate with their period of pregnancy. After birth we switch over the messages to the care of the newborn. Since that period, we have registered 1,96 million pregnant women in that programme. I have now given instruction that all of them be sent instruction about Listeria. We are calling on more pregnant women to register on MomConnect, be they in private or public, because it is during times like this when we are able to reach them quicker through messages.

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