Those at high risk for listeriosis are being asked not
to consume cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford region of Colorado. As of press time,
the Listeria outbreak has sickened at least 72 people across 18 states
and killed at least 13 people.
“Listeria is a rare, but deadly disease.
This is the deadliest outbreak of a food borne disease that we have identified
in more than a decade,” Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the
CDC, said during a CDC media briefing today. “The individuals most at risk
are the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
However, even those without weakened immune systems can develop fever and
diarrhea. So, if you have cantaloupe in your fridge and you are in doubt, then
throw it out.”
Reports of illness began on July 31. Since that time,
those infected have been identified in California (1), Colorado (15), Florida
(1), Illinois (1), Indiana (2), Nebraska (6), New Mexico (10), Oklahoma (8),
Texas (14), Virginia (1) and West Virginia (1). Two deaths have been reported
in Colorado, one in Kansas, one in Maryland, one in Missouri, one in Nebraska,
four in New Mexico, one in Oklahoma and two in Texas, according to the CDC.
Persons infected with the outbreak-associated
strains of Listeria monocytogenes, by state
The FDA released a statement on Sept. 14 on the
voluntary recall of Jensen Farms’ Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes. Colorado
health officials said most of the patients in that state were female, with an
average age of 84 years. The researchers noted confirmed cases in the following
Colorado counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, El Paso,
Jefferson, Larimer and Weld.
Those at high risk for infection with L.
monocytogenes are urged to avoid deli meats (unless they are heated),
unpasteurized soft cheeses and foods such as refrigerated pate.
Healthy people are usually unaffected by the bacteria.
In severe cases, the infection can cause convulsions and stillbirths or
miscarriages in pregnant women.
“This outbreak has been a tough one for all
involved. It’s the first time we have seen Listeria contamination
in cantaloupe, and we are working very hard to determine how this
happened,” Margaret Hamburg, MD,commissioner of the FDA, said
during the briefing. “We are seeing more illnesses and we will see more
cases likely through October.”
“These kinds of outbreaks are a powerful reminder
that even though we have one of the safest food supplies in the world, it does
remain vulnerable to contamination and the American people remain vulnerable to
food borne illness,” she said. “This is why Congress passed the Food
Safety Modernization Act that the President signed into law this year.”
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