18 January 2018

South Africa: PE, Cape and Joburg Insist Drinking Water Is Safe After Listeriosis Scare

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Microscopic view of Listeriosis bacteria.

The cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth on Thursday insisted that drinking water in the metropolitan areas was safe for consumption, following a surge in Listeriosis outbreaks countrywide.

On Tuesday, a total of 764 Listeriosis cases were registered in South Africa, including 212 in Johannesburg, 47 in Cape Town and nine in Port Elizabeth.

Port Elizabeth metropolitan spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki criticised "unfounded allegations" that its tap water was one of the causes of the Listeriosis outbreak in the city.

Mniki was responding to a series of messages shared on social media, which contained warnings that the City's water was contaminated and not safe to drink. The messages urged people to boil their water before drinking it.

Water is safe

"The municipality can confirm that the water coming out of its taps is safe to drink," Mniki said.

"This misinformation has not only caused panic across the city, it has also led to undue pressure on our service delivery call centre, which we use to deal with water leaks, among others."

The City of Johannesburg agreed, saying incorrect information complicated combating Listeriosis. "It is important that we continue to educate and inform our communities about the dangers posed by Listeriosis," mayoral committee member for health and social development Mpho Phalatse said in a statement.

On Thursday morning, Phalatse was distributing Listeriosis information booklets at Park Station. "If we work together and be vigilant in our own spaces, we can stop the spread of Listeriosis and avoid unnecessary deaths."

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town said it was doing what it could to identify the source of Listeriosis contamination in the city and ensure that food is safe. "Listeria crosses income and race boundaries. It can be present in anyone's fridge," mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services JP Smith said in a statement.

Listeriosis is a serious, but preventable and treatable disease found in soil, water, vegetation and some animal faeces. Animal products, including meat and dairy, seafood and fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, can all be contaminated.

Pregnant women, the elderly, babies and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk.

The recent outbreak in South Africa has been identified as the largest recorded outbreak by the World Health Organisation.

People can keep themselves safe by:

  • washing hands thoroughly;
  • separating raw and cooked food;
  • cooking food thoroughly;
  • keeping food at safe temperatures; and
  • using clean water and fresh food.

Source: News24

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