The latest listeria outbreak has taken at least 16 lives and caused dozens of illnesses in 18 states across the U.S., marking the deadliest food outbreak in over a decade. It is likely to worsen in coming weeks, so make sure to familiarize yourself with listeria symptoms and how to prevent the infection. 

The cause of the outbreak has been identified as the contaminated cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado. The Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes were shipped from July 29 through Sept. 10 to Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming, according to TIME.

Over 300,000 cases of 15 cantaloupes were shipped, according to the company.  

The tainted melons were recalled on Sept. 14, but some consumers may still have them in their refrigerators. Not every cantaloupe is labeled with a sticker, said FDA, but many have the labels of Colorado Grown, Distributed by Frontera Produce, Jensenfarms.com or Sweet Rocky Fords. 

The FDA and CDC recommend anyone who may have one of the contaminated cantaloupes throw it out immediately and clean and sanitize any surfaces it may have touched, says TIME.

Due to the long incubation period for listeria, which could be up to two months, there may be more illnesses and deaths from the listeria outbreak in the coming weeks, said health officials. 

The incubation period ranges out to 70 days, said Kendra Williams, Administrator of Community Health and Epidemiology. The average or what officials would expect to see would be 21 days. It makes it difficult to narrow down what you might have eaten, when and where because most people would have a hard time coming up with a food history from even a week ago better yet a month or two ago.

Listeria is more deadly than salmonella and E. coli, and its bacteria can grow at room temperatures and refrigerator temperatures, and could linger long after the source of the contamination is gone.  

 

The followings are the initial symptoms you would experience if you are inflected:

Fever

Muscle aches

Nausea

Diarrhea

 

When the listeria infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms develop to be flu-like, such as:

Headache

Confusion

Changes in alertness

Stiff neck

Convulsions

Loss of balance

 

For pregnant women, a listeria infection is likely to cause only mild signs and symptoms, according to Mayo Clinic, while the baby may die unexpectedly before birth or experince a life-threatening infection within the first few days after birth.

Its symptoms in a newborn may include:

Little interest in feeding

Irritability

Fever

Vomiting

In order to prevent listeria infection, cook meat thoroughly, wash raw fruit and vegetables and avoid products containing unpasteurized milk. Keep your kitchen clean, fridge below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and consume refrigerated leftovers within three or four days, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention.