Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has urged anyone who is displaying symptoms of Listeriosis to seek medical attention immediately following the outbreak of the disease across South Africa.
The disease causes flu-like symptoms and can lead to nausea, diarrhoea, infection of the bloodstream and brain.
By the end of last month, 557 cases had been confirmed, compared with about 80 cases annually in past years.
Motsoaledi says although the disease was serious, it could still be treated with antibiotics and prevented by observing personal hygiene such as washing hands before and after preparing food.
Of the 557 cases, the department of health has found the final outcome of 70 confirmed cases of Listeriosis. Dr Motsoaledi stated 36 people have died due to the disease.
"However, in July this year, doctors from neonatal units in Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Academic hospitals alerted the National Institute for Communicable Diseases about the unusually high numbers of babies with listeriosis".
Although anyone can get #Listeriosis, those at high risk include newborns, the elderly, pregnant women, persons with weak immunity such as those with HIV, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease. It is usually present in raw milk and other dairy products.
The department has not found the origin of the outbreak but suspects food contamination at the source, such as farms or food processing plants.
He said the majority of cases have been reported in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.