Eight Deaths Reported In Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak

The cantaloupe <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/listeria">Listeria death toll has doubled since yesterday with eight dead and 55 sickened in a multi-state outbreak that spans 14 states. At last count, said MSNBC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed the toll at four dead and 55 ill in 10 states. Experts believe the toll is as high as 11 dead and 68 ill. Regardless, more reports of illness, death, and lawsuits in connection to this outbreak are expected.

Local, state, and federal health experts continue to investigate the broadening epidemic that appears to have originated with Rocky Ford-region brand whole cantaloupe supplied by Jensen Farms of Holly, Colorado, said MSNBC.

As we’ve written, 300,000 cases of whole cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms were shipped between July 29th and September 10th, 2011 to Illinois, Wyoming, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Jensen Farms issued a recall on September 14th followed by a statement from spokeswoman Amy Philpott confirming the presence of Listeria in one of its Rocky Ford cantaloupes. Jensen Farms just posted an online apology for its part in the deadly outbreak.

Testing has since confirmed that four Listeria strains have been linked to those who have fallen ill and who consumed the potentially contaminated cantaloupes, said MSNBC. The CDC confirmed that victims have been reported in Colorado (14), New Mexico (10), Texas (9), Oklahoma (8), Nebraska (4), Wisconsin (2), as well as one each in California, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming, said MSNBC. Deaths have been confirmed in Colorado (2), Maryland (1), New Mexico (4), and Oklahoma (1), said federal officials.

Based on data collected sicknesses began around August 5th with the ill ranging in age from 35 to 96; the median age is 78 and 43 have been hospitalized, said MSNBC.

Although the New Mexico state epidemiologist said listeriosis incubation period can be as long as one month, MSNBC just reported that listeriosis, the infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, can take up to two months to present symptoms. Of note, Listeria can flourish even with refrigeration.

As we mentioned yesterday, the Listeria outbreak has led to at least one lawsuit; more are expected. Tammy and Charles Palmer allege the cantaloupe Charles (71) ate tested positive for Listeria, said The New York Daily News. Palmer became ill two weeks ago—two weeks after consuming the fruit—and was rushed to the hospital paralyzed and unable to speak, according to ABC News. Charles remains hospitalized on a strong antibiotic regimen. “The doctors told me it was Listeria. The health department told me that it was the cantaloupe,” Tammy told 7News.

Listeriosis infection is potentially fatal and can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, and nausea, especially in those with weakened immune systems, infants, and the elderly. Vulnerable populations, including the developing fetus, can suffer serious central nervous system problems; the infection can prompt premature births, or the death of the fetus via miscarriages and stillbirths; pregnant women are 20 times likelier to become infected. Listeriosis can also lead to hearing loss or brain damage in newborns, and can prompt neurological effects and cardio respiratory failure in adults.

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