The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is supporting 16 African nations in preparing for listeriosis outbreaks since South Africa’s began – and is now threatening other countries on the continent.
Nearly 200 South Africans have died since January 2017 as a result of contaminated meat products that are popular in South Africa, but may also have been exported to two West African countries and 14 members of the South African Development Community (SADC). WHO officials say it is the largest such outbreak ever recorded.
South African health authorities traced the outbreak to a factory in Polokwane, South Africa. Tiger Brands, the owner of the facility, was named in a class action lawsuit filed on Thursday. The news came one day after South African authorities provided evidence that LST6 was found in seven products.
“This prompted a national and international recall of the food products,” WHO said in a statement. “However, in light of the potentially long incubation period of listeriosis and the challenges relating to large scale nationwide recall processes, further cases are likely to occur.”
Namibia has reported one confirmed case in early March, which may be connected to the South Africa outbreak. Tiger products are sold in Namibia, where stores began pulling them off the shelves on March 5.
“This outbreak is a wake up call for countries in the region to strengthen their national food safety and disease surveillance systems,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Image: US CDC