Listeriosis in South Africa – Travel Advisory
What is listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by the germ Listeria monocytogenes. The illness usually starts 1 to 4 weeks after eating certain contaminated foods. Foods more likely to be contaminated include soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. In addition, certain ready-to-eat meats (such as hot dogs, sausages, pâtés, lunch meats, cold cuts), are often infected. Finally, refrigerated smoked seafood, melons, raw or lightly cooked sprouts, and raw (unpasteurized) milk. But other raw dairy products can also be contaminated with listeria.
- There is a severe, widespread outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa. Thishas been linked to ready-to-eat processed meat products, including “polony.”
- Travelers to South Africa should avoid all ready-to-eat processed meat products to reduce their risk of listeriosis.
- Pregnant women and their newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill from listeriosis.
What is the current situation?
Public health officials in South Africa(https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/south-africa) have reported an ongoing outbreak of listeriosis. This began in January 2017, and around 1,000 people have become ill since then. Gauteng, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces have reported the most cases of the disease. However, the illness has occurred throughout the country. Over 180 ill people with known outcomes have died. The source of listeriosis in South Africa has been identified as a variety of processed, ready-to-eat meat products, including “polony”.
Who is at risk for listeriosis?
Anyone can be at risk for listeriosis. Pregnant women and their newborns, people 65 years or older, and people with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill with listeriosis. One in five people with listeriosis die. Pregnant women typically experience only fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches. However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
Symptoms that include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and seizures in addition to fever and muscle aches, can occur in non-pregnant persons.
What can travelers do to prevent listeriosis?
CDC recommends that all travelers to South Africa avoid all ready-to-eat processed meat products, including polony, at this time.