Cantaloupe Listeria Cases Stand At 100, Deaths At 18

The ongoing deadly cantaloupe <"">Listeria outbreak has claimed more casualties with 100 reportedly sickened and 18 dead. The Listeria outbreak now involves 20 states, according to federal health officials.

Unfortunately, officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that the illnesses, which involve four strains of the dangerous and sometimes deadly Listeria monocytogenes pathogen, will likely rise in October and the following months, said MSNBC. Officials believe that the toll of those sickened and dead will be even greater than the historic 1998 hotdog Listeria outbreak involving deli meat and hot dogs and that killed 21 people, explained MSNBC.

To date, the CDC has confirmed five deaths each in Colorado and New Mexico, two each in Texas and Kansas, one each in Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, said MSNBC.

Meanwhile, said MSNBC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to investigate the cause of the outbreak which has, to date, led to a recall of over 300,000 cases of whole cantaloupe grown and shipped by Jensen Farms of Holly, Colorado.

“We have to ensure that we do a thorough job of collecting the data and the analysis,” said FDA spokesman Doug Karas. “It’s complicated because there are so many factors that have to be considered,” Karas added, wrote MSNBC. The investigative team is reviewing all possible issues, such as agricultural, harvesting, and storage practices, noted Karas.

Last month, the FDA discovered Listeria monocytogenes in samples of Jensen Farms’ Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupe taken from a Denver area store and on samples taken from equipment and cantaloupe at Jensen Farms’ packing facility. On September 14, Jensen Farms recalled its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes in response to the multi-state outbreak of listeriosis. Jensen Farms shipped the recalled cantaloupes from July 29 through September 10 to 25 states; some may have been shipped to other states.

Cantaloupe has a shelf life of about two weeks, so the produce is likely inedible at this point, said MSNBC. And, although illnesses started to occur around July 31, said MSNBC, the incubation period can be as long as two months according to experts.

Consumers might also have kept the produce refrigerated, not realizing that Listeria monocytogenes easily survives in the cold, noted MSNBC. Consumers are urged to discard any Jensen Farms cantaloupe and sanitize kitchen surfaces, the refrigerator, and kitchen implements that might have been in contact with the potentially tainted fruit, said MSNBC.

According to the CDC, symptoms of Listeria may include fever and muscle aches, often preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. In pregnant women, Listeria may present as only a mild, flu-like illness. Infections during pregnancy can also lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn. In other Listeria victims, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions may also be present.

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