The Department of Health has urged pregnant women to register on MomConnect to receive updates on Listeriosis as babies under 28 days old are the worst affected.
“When we view the statistics of affected people, we note that of all these vulnerable groups, neonates are the worst affected. If we analyse it by age group from birth to 93 years, neonates alone account for close to 40% of these cases,” said Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi at a media briefing on Monday in Tshwane.
Listeriosis is a serious but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The bacterium is found in soil, water and vegetation. Animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources.
The Department of Health has put the Listeriosis outbreak on high surveillance as 119 new cases have occurred since 5 December 2017 and 61 patients have passed on.
The department said while Listeria can affect anybody from any socio-economic background, there are certain categories of people who are specifically vulnerable. These include neonates (babies less than four weeks old), pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems such as people with HIV/Aids, diabetes and chronic diseases such as cancer, kidney and liver diseases.
“We are calling on more pregnant women to register on MomConnect, be they in private or public [health care], because it is during times like this when we are able to reach them quicker through messages. I have now given instruction that all of them be sent [messages] about Listeria,” said Minister Motsoaledi.
The Minister also appealed to health workers to be extra vigilant when dealing with pregnant women.
“Due to this high number of [cases in neonates], a special request to health workers and the public at large is to pay special attention to all pregnant women. Have a high index of suspicion whenever dealing with a pregnant woman or a neonate,” said the Minister.
According to the department, there are 1.2 million pregnant women in South Africa annually. Registration on the MomConnect programme launched by the department in 2014 could assist in reaching potentially infected mothers.
Once registered on the programme, pregnant women receive messages on their cell phone every two weeks in line with their period of pregnancy.
After birth, mothers receive messages in relation to the care of their newborns.
To date, 1.96 million pregnant women have registered on the programme.