South Africa is in the midst of what is believed to be the largest listeriosis outbreak of all time. At least 915 cases of listeriosis have been confirmed, and 172 people have died since the outbreak began at the beginning of 2017, and health officials say they still haven’t found the source of the outbreak.
According to Food Safety News, only 61 deaths had been confirmed at the start of January of this year, but now the confirmed number of deaths is 172. The outbreak appears to be worsening. Officials suspect the outbreak could be the result of the contamination of a product or products from a single food company, but that hasn’t been confirmed and nobody has yet been able to figure out what the source of the contamination could be.
Listeriosis is a potentially fatal foodborne illness that comes when food is contaminated with the listeria bacteria. It causes diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, fever, and flu-like symptoms. According to the CDC, listeriosis can even cause headaches confusion, loss of balance, and even convulsions if the disease affects the nervous symptoms.
Listeriosis is not usually fatal in healthy adults with, but it is very dangerous for the elderly, children, pregnant people, and people with compromised immune systems. In pregnant people, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and preterm delivery.
South African authorities are still looking for the source of the outbreak and have urged people not to panic, but they’ve advised children, elderly people, pregnant people, and people with compromised immune systems to avoid ready-to-eat meat products, soft cheese, and unpasteurized milk and dairy products until the source of the outbreak has been found and contained. Listeriosis can incubate for more than two months before symptoms appear, which makes it harder to find the source of an outbreak, and is one of the reasons listeriosis is one of the world’s most infamous food scares.