Thirty-six people have died in South Africa from an outbreak of the food-borne disease listeriosis, the country’s Department of Health said on Tuesday.
By the end of last month, 557 cases had been confirmed, compared with about 80 cases annually in past years, the department said. It could not estimate how many deaths had usually occurred in the past.
The department has not found the origin of the outbreak but suspects food contamination at the source, such as farms or food processing plants. It was probably spread by “a food product that is widely distributed and consumed by people across all socio-economic groups,” Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.
Listeriosis is caused by a bacterium found in soil, water and vegetation. People usually contract it through animal products and fresh fruits and vegetables.