LISTERIOSIS: How it all went down
A timeline of the outbreak since it was first discovered in January 2017
The source of the listeriosis outbreak was discovered at midnight on Saturday, more than a year after the first cases were recorded in South Africa.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi made the announcement that polony and products from an Enterprise Foods factory in Polokwane were the source of the world’s largest outbreak of listeria.Here is a timeline of the outbreak since it was first discovered in January 2017:
January 2017: A handful of listeriosis cases are recorded by laboratories that test for the bacteria in people’s blood or cerebral spinal fluid.July 2017: Paediatrician Dr David Moore raises the alarm after he hears that Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital Neonatal Unit has seen seven babies with the disease, an unusually high number.
September 2017: The national standard guideline for the treatment of meningitis in newborn babies is adjusted to ensure antibiotics used can kill the listeria bacteria that could be causing meningitis in babies.
December 2017: An outbreak of listeria is declared by the Health Department. It becomes a notifiable disease meaning every diagnosed patient and sample has to be reported to the National Institute for Communicable Disease.December 2017: Staff at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases cancel or shorten their holidays to continue testing all known samples of listeria bacteria taken from patients or food. Epidemiologists start doing interviews with patients on commonly eaten foods.
January 2018: Professor Lucia Anelich, a food consultant, raises alarm, asking if this world’s largest documented outbreakJanuary 2018: A paediatrician at Baragwanath hospital realises something is amiss after five children from the same crèche are admitted for gastroenteritis. The doctor calls the National Institute for Non-Communicable diseases and environmental health practitioners sent to take food the from crèche for testing. Rainbow Chicken Limited Polony and Enterprise Polony are found.January 29: Enterprise polony and one children’s stool tests positive for listeria Strain Type 6.
February 2: Environmental Health Practitioners representatives from the NICD, Department of Health and Department of Agriculture visit Enterprise Polokwane factory and take 300 environmental samples. A shockingly high 30% test positive for some kind of listeriosis, although only 16 are linked to the strain responsible for most of the cases.February: Tests are also done at Rainbow Chicken Limited factory in Wolwehoek where 10 % of samples taken test positive for listeria bacteria although the strains are not yet known.
March 3: Source of outbreak confirmed as the Enterprise factory in Polokwane.March 4: The National Consumer Commission issues the manufacturers of Enterprise Foods, Tiger Brands, with a recall notice. Rainbow Chicken Limited polony and processed meats products are also recalled because of the presence of listeria in the factory. Two samples of Rainbow chicken polony have tested positive for two strains of listeria that could case food-borne illness.March 5: Tiger Brands holds a press conference to announce how the recall of all products will take place.