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Traveling to South Africa? Don’t drink the water

Traveling to South Africa? Don’t drink the water

A little over a year ago, South Africa began witnessing an outbreak of listeria. This disease is caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes, which is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water, vegetation, and the feces of some animals.

Since then, this bacteria has claimed more lives – over 100 to date – than any other in recorded history, largely affecting the Gauteng province, an area which includes Pretoria and Johannesburg.

The Department of Health has urged the public to follow a series of guidelines including hand washing and keeping raw and cooked food separate. Travelers should err on the side of caution and drink only bottled water, and assure themselves that the food they are consuming is cooked well, including food from street vendors.

The decision to amend the list of notifiable diseases to include listeriosis was made by the Department of Health on December 5. This has meant that it is a legal obligation for health service professionals to notify the authorities when they encounter a case of listeriosis, making it easier to track the spread of the disease.