Updated 22 January 2018

SA on alert: What you should know about the deadly Listeriosis outbreak

How can you protect yourself against this potentially deadly bacteria?

On Monday morning, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi delivered an update on the deadly Listeriosis outbreak in the country.

In his address to the media, Motsoaledi said that there were 727 laboratory-confirmed cases, but that they had only able to trace 134 of those cases to actual patients. Out of the 134 patients, 61 had died, but authorities were still working hard to trace the remaining patients.

The majority of the cases are still in the Gauteng province region, with the Western Cape in second place and Kwa-Zulu Natal in third.

What is Listeriosis?

According to Food Safety, Listeria is a bacterium found in soil, water and vegetation. It can also occur in some animals, including poultry and cattle. Raw milk and foods made from raw milk can also carry the bacteria.


People should seek medical attention if they experience the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • General weakness
  • Vomiting (sometimes preceded by diarrhoea)

See if you potentially have Listeria.


The majority of people infected by Listeria recover within seven days. However, those with a compromised immune system, older adults, infants or pregnant women require urgent medical care – treatment involves either a course of antibiotics or fluids through an IV drip.

The treatment of Listeriosis is usually symptomatic and depends on the severity of the disease. If your infection is severe, antibiotics may be recommended. 

Home remedies include:

  • Plenty of clear fluids such as water and tea
  • The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple sauce, toast) and other bland foods that won’t irritate the stomach
  • Bed rest


  • Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk. Also, be careful of foods that contain raw milk.
  • Practice good hygiene in the kitchen. Wash your hands regularly, and make sure cutting boards, cutlery and crockery are cleaned properly.
  • Thoroughly cook animal foods such as meat, poultry or fish. Rather overcook than undercook.
  • Keep an eye on the expiry dates of perishable foods. Consume as soon as possible.

Read more about the dangers of food-borne illnesses. 

Images credit: iStock