67 South Africans have died from listeriosis as the disease continues to spread
Listeriosis is a serious bacterial infection which is spread when people eat food contaminated with the bacterium.
The most common foods to be contaminated are raw or unpasteurized milk as well as soft cheeses, or vegetables, processed foods and ready-to-eat meats and smoked fish products.
Because the listeria bacteria are found in the environment – for instance in soil or water – it means that animals and vegetables can become infected at any time and, as a result, anyone can catch the disease.
Lindmeier said the three-week incubation period makes it difficult to establish the source and therefore even harder to prevent.
He added: “You wouldn’t know what you ate three weeks ago – maybe the one particular food that made you sick three or four weeks later – this is the big challenge we face in this situation.”
lectron micrograph of a Listeria bacterium in tissue
Pregnant women are also “20 times more likely to get Listeriosis than other healthy adults,” according to Mr. Lindmeier.
South Africa has implemented some measures to stem listeriosis, such as making it a notifiable disease, whereby every listeriosis-diagnosed patient must be reported.
The disease is particularly dangerous for newborns and pregnant women
Southern African countries have faced a series of crippling disease outbreaks in recent months. Late last year, more than 200 people died in Madagascar as a plague outbreak swept through the country.
The unprecedented outbreak saw hundreds of health officials enter the country in a bid to stop the disease from spreading.