Gauteng is the epicenter of the Listeriosis outbreak but poor record-keeping at hospitals and clinics is hindering prevention and treatment because many of those infected cannot be contacted or traced.
According to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, the number of listeriosis confirmed by lab testing has increased from 557 in early December to 727 cases, of which 443 (61%) are from Gauteng.
But only 134 of these confirmed cases have been traced, which highlights the problem that patients often cannot be traced because their contact details have not been accurately recorded in hospitals and clinics.
Another problem is that false addresses are sometimes given, particularly by foreign patients.
Although the outbreak is across all nine provinces, clinical tests have revealed that the listeria originates from a single source which is most likely a food product produced in Gauteng.
The Listeriosis mortality rate is 20%-25%, and food scientists say that this is the worst recorded outbreak in global history.
The real number of deaths due to Listeriosis is probably much higher than the 61 deaths officially recorded because so many patients could not be found subsequent to their positive diagnosis in a laboratory.
These patients need to be interviewed so that environmental inspectors in the local municipalities have information as to where the bacteria is coming from, otherwise it is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
I welcome the designation of Listeriosis as a notifiable disease, but urgent attention must be paid to the recording of patient contact details particularly in Gauteng so that we can speedily find the source of the outbreak that is causing more and more deaths.