Listeriosis in South AfricaUpdated March 20, 2018
There is a severe, widespread outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa that has 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 have reported an ongoing outbreak of listeriosis that began in January 2017. Around 1,000 people have become ill since then. Most illnesses have been reported in Gauteng, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, but illnesses have occurred throughout the country. Over 180 ill people with known outcomes have died. The source of the listeriosis outbreak has been identified in a variety of processed, ready-to-eat meat products, including “polony,” in South Africa.
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.
People other than pregnant women can have symptoms that include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and seizures in addition to fever and muscle aches.
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.
FAQs About Listeriosis
CDC Listeria Website
CDC Food Safety Website
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Page created: February 12, 2018
Page last updated: March 16, 2018
Page last reviewed: March 16, 2018
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)
Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ)