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Has Cantaloupe-Linked Listeria Outbreak Killed Seven?

Seven deaths among as many as 49 illnesses are being investigated and may be linked to Listeria-tainted cantaloupes traced to Jensen Farms in Holly, CO, according to a review of state health department websites and media reports this weekend.

As of last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said two people had died of listeriosis out of 22 infected with the outbreak-related strains of Listeria monocytogenes in seven states.

The number of infected persons identified in each state by the CDC was as follows: Colorado (12), Indiana (1), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (4), Oklahoma (1), Texas (2), and West Virginia (1). Two deaths have been reported, one in Colorado and one in New Mexico.

But state health department news releases indicate the number of fatalities and illnesses could climb considerably higher. Here are the states (unless noted) that the Food and Drug Administration said received the suspect cantaloupes, and reports of infections that may be linked to the outbreak:

Arizona – No reported illnesses.

Colorado (12 sick, including one death) — A total of 12 cases in Colorado are linked to the outbreak.

Indiana (1 sick) – One ill according to the CDC.  State not listed as receiving Jensen cantaloupes.

Illinois (1 sick) – Listeriosis illnesses in several other states -including Cook County in Illinois–are currently being investigated by state and local health departments to determine if these illnesses are part of this outbreak.

Kansas (6 potentially linked cases) – Kansas has had six cases of listeriosis reported since August 26. None of these cases has been definitively linked to the multistate outbreak, but investigations are underway and additional laboratory testing is pending.

Minnesota – No reported illnesses.

Missouri (2 sick, including 1 death) – The Springfield-Greene County Health Department in investigating  whether two cases of listeriosis are connected to contaminated cantaloupes from Colorado. According to press reports, one person died and one remains hospitalized.

Montana (2 sick) – Department of the Public Health and Human Services officials have identified two cases of listeriosis in Montana residents. One is confirmed to be linked to the outbreak, test results are pending on the other.

Nebraska (3 sick) – In the past two weeks, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Office of Epidemiology has received three reports of listeriosis (two in Douglas County and one in Custer County).  At least two of the three case patients were hospitalized.  PFGE (DNA fingerprinting) on one isolate matches isolates from two other states. The investigation in this cluster so far is finding a strong association with cantaloupe.

New Jersey – No reported illnesses.

New Mexico (10 sick, including four deaths) – To date, the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) has identified 10 patients hospitalized with Listeria infection in the last three weeks, including four fatalities. The CDC has confirmed by DNA fingerprinting tests that the first five New Mexico cases are part of the multi-state Listeriosis outbreak linked to cantaloupes from Colorado. Test results on the other cases are pending.

New York – No reported illnesses.

North Carolina – No reported illnesses.

Oklahoma (10 sick with 1 death) – One case has been identified as associated with this outbreak.  Six other recently reported cases of listeriosis among Oklahomans are under investigation to determine if they are related to the outbreak. Preliminary results of the investigation indicate Colorado cantaloupes as the likely source. According to news reports, the Oklahoma Department of Health has confirmed one death and says all six people were hospitalized. An additional four cases are being investigated.

Pennsylvania – No reported illnesses.

South Dakota – No reported illnesses.

Tennessee – No reported illnesses.

Texas - (2 sick) Two people from Texas have become ill after consuming Rocky Ford cantaloupe.

Utah – No reported illnesses.

West Virginia (1 sick) – One ill.  State not listed as receiving Jensen Cantaloupes.

Wyoming (1 sick) – Wyoming state health officials say a Laramie County man has fallen ill with a case of listeriosis believed to be related to contaminated cantaloupes from Colorado.

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