Beginning on Monday, an outbreak of listeria, a food-borne bacteria, carried by cantaloupe grown in the Rocky Ford region of Colorado spread across nearly seven states and forced several farmers of the tainted fruit to remove the produce from shelves.
Shortly after, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began coordinating a multi-state investigation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) once the outbreak spread to three states.
Since Monday the infected fruit has caused 22 illnesses and two deaths, all from consumption of the melon.
Federal health officials discovered that the tainted fruit, usually harvested in August and September and distributed widely in the U.S., reportedly carried listeria, or causing listeriosis, a rare yet serious illness caused by eating contaminated food, and is grown in the Rocky Ford region of southern Colorado.
After New Mexico state officials issued a recall notice Wednesday, Jensen Farms of Colorado announced on Thursday it would also recall the tainted fruit, which are shipped from July 29 through September 10, 2011, and distributed to at least 17 states with possible further distribution, according to the FDA.
Del Monte, a major seller of cantaloupe in the United States, sued the FDA and the state of Oregon over a cantaloupe recall in March of this year.
During the same month, the company then voluntarily recalled 4,992 cartons of cantaloupes, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella Panama, according to the CDC.
The whole cantaloupes have a green and white sticker that reads: Product of USA- Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford-Cantaloupe or a gray, yellow, and green sticker that reads: Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords, wrote FDA officials in a statement on Thursday.
As of Sept. 14, at least 22 cases of the illness have been reported, 12 in Colorado, four in New Mexico, two in Texas, and one each in West Virginia, Indiana, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, according to the CDC.
Two deaths have also been reported, one in Colorado and one in New Mexico.
The CDC said this is the first Listeria outbreak in the U.S., which is concerning many New Mexican consumers and farmers, along with those in the six states where the fruit has caused multiple deaths.
The fatal cases in New Mexico included a 93-year-old man, a 61-year-old woman, and a 63-year-old man. However, the person who died in Colorado was not identified, CBS News reported Wednesday.
Tammie Palmer filed a lawsuit on Thursday after her 71-year-old husband Charles Palmer, a retired Marine sergeant, got sick from eating a contaminated melon on August 31. He's been hospitalized ever since, according to CBS News.
He wasn't able to talk to me for five days, Tammie Palmer told CBS News. When I talked to him, his eyes rolled into the back of his head. It's been a nightmare.
Symptoms of the infection include fever and muscle aches, diarrhea, headaches, stiff neck and confusion, according to the CDC.
Watch Listeria Outbreak Coverage Below: