No listeriosis outbreak, says NICD as it distances itself from media reports

The institute says the 87 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases reported are below the expected range.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has said there is no listeriosis outbreak in South Africa.

This after the Citizen on Tuesday aggregated an IOL report which stated that there had been 21 deaths in new listeriosis cases and that the NICD said, however, that this was not a cause for panic.

The publication reported that the institute said that it was investigating 61 cases out of 87 confirmed cases reported in the country.

However, the NICD’s editorial specialist, Muzikayise Mike Maseko, said the institute distanced itself from the reporting “on grounds that it is misleading and not contextual to what was reported in the September 2019 Communicable Diseases Communiqué issue”.

The NICD issued a clarification, saying there was no evidence of an outbreak of listeriosis.

“The number of cases reported since the official end of the 2017/2018 listeriosis outbreak is well within and in fact, below the expected range for sporadic disease.

“Furthermore, there have been no unusual trends in the epidemiological patterns of disease, or in the whole genome sequencing analysis of isolates from patients; such data are analysed on an ongoing basis in order to detect possible clusters or outbreaks,” the clarification reads.

The NICD said that since listeria monocytogenes – the bacteria that causes the infection listeriosis – were found everywhere in the environment “it is likely that accidental contamination of food occurs fairly frequently, and that consumption of contaminated food may lead to listeriosis particularly in vulnerable people at high risk for disease”.

The institute said that worldwide, most listeriosis cases were sporadic, which means they are isolated cases that are not linked to an outbreak and occur predominantly in persons at high risk for disease, but occasional outbreaks do occur.

“The population incidence of sporadic listeriosis ranges from two to five cases per 1 million population in the US, Europe, and Australia, where listeriosis has been under routine surveillance for many years and robust data is available.

“With that in mind, at our current population size of 58.8 million, we would expect 117 to 294 sporadic cases in South Africa per year.”

Data for South Africa from 2013 show that prior to the 2017/2018 listeriosis outbreak, 55 to 113 cases per year were reported, the NICD said.

“For the 12 months following the official end of the 2017/2018 outbreak (September 3 2018 – September 18 2019), a total of 87 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis were reported. This is below the expected range. Outcome data is currently available for 77% (67/87) of cases, of which 31% (21/67) died. This is not unexpected, because listeriosis is a severe disease that targets vulnerable people at high risk and typically has a fatality rate of 20-30%.”

(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu.)

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