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Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak Tapering Off

Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak Tapering Off

Food Safety News

by Gretchen Goetz | November 25, 2011

The nationwide Listeria outbreak linked to Colorado-grown cantaloupes seems to finally be slowing, but is not over yet.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - released the first of this month - reported 2 more deaths since its last update released a week before. This pattern of a few new deaths per week had become eerily commonplace over the preceding 11 weeks.

But after this newest update, the CDC has remained silent on the Listeria outbreak for the month of November.

This week Food Safety News checked in with local health departments in affected states to see whether the outbreak was continuing to take its toll, finding that there has been one more victim linked to the outbreak since the last CDC update.

A case of listeriosis in Illinois was recently confirmed to be part of the outbreak, bringing the total number of illnesses from 139 to 140 - with the number of deaths holding steady at 29. Like 99 percent of those sickened so far, the Illinois victim was hospitalized.

This illness appears to be the only new one to have been linked to the outbreak this month.

Thirteen of the involved states were able to confirm that their number of illnesses has stayed the same since the last CDC count. These states and their numbers of victims include: California (2), Colorado (39), Kansas (10), Louisiana (2), Missouri (6), New Mexico (15), New York (2), Oklahoma (11), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (1) Texas (18), Utah (1), and Wisconsin (2).

"In New York it is still two. Nothing has changed and truthfully we don't have any other cases that we're investigating so it looks like it will probably stay at two," said Pete Constantakes, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health. "There's no reason to think it will change, and I think I even hear rumor that CDC may be winding down with this as well. It is true in New York, it's been true for a long time, and it should not change.

Numbers from the 14 other states have not been updated since CDC's November 1 report, and are as follows: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), Idaho (2), Indiana (3), Iowa (1), Maryland (1), Montana (1), Nebraska (6), Nevada (1), South Dakota (1), Utah (1), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), and Wyoming (4).

The Listeria outbreak has been linked to cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms in Colorado. It has affected victims in 28 states, and has become one of the deadliest outbreaks of in the United States.

Jensen Farms recalled its cantaloupes on Sept. 14, but illnesses continued to be reported after the contaminated cantaloupes were off store shelves due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported, and also because up to 2 months can elapse between eating Listeria-contaminated food and developing listeriosis.

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