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Contaminated Cantaloupe Likely Cause Of Wyoming Death

Food Safety News

by Dan Flynn

Sep 27, 2011

In the one week since the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last reported on the multistate outbreak of listeriosis-linked "Rocky Ford" cantaloupes from Colorado's Jensen Farms, the number of infections and deaths have continued to climb.

Wyoming is the latest state to lose a resident to the deadly outbreak, it was reported Monday. The death of a Sheridan County woman is being investigated as listeriosis caused, although neither the Wyoming Department of Health or CDC has made it official.

CDC's last report was current through 5 p.m. Sept. 20 -- one week ago -- when there were 55 confirmed listeriosis cases in 14 states with eight deaths. In the week since, those numbers have grown.

Based on local media and state health departments reports, those numbers now appear to have climbed to include at least 67 cases in 16 states with 13 deaths.

The current number of infected persons identified in each state is as follows: California (1), Colorado (15), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Kansas (5), Maryland (1), Missouri (2), Montana (1), Nebraska (6), New Mexico (10), Oklahoma (8), Texas (9), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (3).

Reports of 13 deaths in eight states come from Colorado (2), Kansas (2), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (4), Oklahoma (1), and Wyoming (1) .

Listeria outbreaks can be especially stubborn because of the pathogen's long incubation period. The window for showing symptoms after exposure runs from three to as long as 70 days.

The last big Listeria outbreak in North America occurred in 2008 in Canada when 23 of 57 exposed to Listeria died, for a fatality rate of 40 percent. The fatality rate in the current cantaloupe-related outbreak has now reached 19 percent. It will likely go higher.

The Jensen Farms recall for all the Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes it shipped between July 29 and Sept. 10 was announced Sept. 14.

The contaminated cants were distributed to 25 states including 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.

Cantaloupe has a shelf life as long as two weeks.

Symptoms of listeriosis include fever and muscle aches, often preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost everyone who is diagnosed with listeriosis has invasive infection, in which the bacteria spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms vary with the infected person:

Pregnant women: Pregnant women typically experience only a mild, flu-like illness. However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.

Persons other than pregnant women: Symptoms, in addition to fever and muscle aches, can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.

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