The latest case of a rare, yet, deadly food-borne illness arose on Sept. 12, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported four deaths in New Mexico and 35 illnesses in 10 states, two deaths were reported in Colorado, and one person has died in Oklahoma.
The agency began an multi-state investigation in conjunction the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
As Sept. 26, 2011, a total of 72 persons infected with the four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported to CDC from 18 states.
How does the illness spread?
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Listeria bacteria can grow in the cantaloupe at room and refrigerator temperatures. CDC says if consumers are uncertain about the source of a cantaloupe for purchase, they should ask the grocery store, When in doubt, throw it out.
Why should you care?
Overall, there have been roughly 1,600 cases annually in the United States. Listeria infection can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women, people over the age of 60 and those with compromised immune systems, health officials said.
Symptoms of the infection include fever and muscle aches, diarrhea, headaches, stiff neck and confusion, according to the CDC. Antibiotics are effective in treating the infection in most cases.
How many have gotten ill or died?
Illnesses have been reported in California, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to the CDC.
The death toll is currently at 13 in eight states.
In 2002, when 54 illnesses, 8 deaths, and 3 fetal deaths in 9 states were found to be associated with consumption of contaminated turkey deli meat.
When did the most recent illness first spread?
CDC says all illnesses started on or after July 31, 2011.
What should you do to keep safe?
CDC recommends that persons at high risk for listeriosis, including older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women, do not eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms.
Other consumers who want to reduce their risk of Listeria infection should not eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms.
About the Listeria bacteria:
Symptoms, in addition to fever and muscle aches, can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.
CDC officials said people in the high-risk groups for contracting the infection should avoid unpasteurized soft cheeses, refrigerated smoked seafood, and deli meats unless they have been reheated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent an infection.
More information about listeriosis and recommendations to reduce the risk of getting listeriosis from food are available at CDC’s Listeriosis webpage.