Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Tuesday morning that while Listeriosis is a serious disease, it can be treated with antibiotics.
The virus is found in soil, water and vegetation.
Motsoaledi said people who are most vulnerable include the elderly, children, newborns or those who are ill.
Approximately 557 cases have been reported, with the majority coming from Gauteng.
He said they had traced 70 patients, of whom 36 died.
“Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium listeria monocytogenes. The bacteria is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation. Animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources,” Motsoaledi said, as he addressed a press briefing called to announce the outbreak.
He said infection with listeria may result in conditions including flu-like illness with diarrhoea, including fever, general body pains, vomiting and weakness, infection of the bloodstream which is called septicaemia, and meningoencephalitis [infection of the brain].
“Although anyone can get Listeriosis, those at high risk of developing severe disease include newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and persons with weak immunity, HIV/Aids, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease [patients]. Listeriosis is a disease that occurs every year and is seen in our hospitals, typically 60-80 cases are detected and treated annually,” said the minister.
— News24 Wire and Africa News Agency