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Three More Deaths in Growing Listeriosis Outbreak

Cantaloupe-related listeriosis has killed three more people and infected another 10, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Tuesday.

In the 12th update since the multistate outbreak of listeriosis linked to whole cantaloupes from Colorado’s Jensen Farms began, CDC said that as of 9 a.m. on Oct. 24, 2011, a total of 133 people were infected with at least one of the four outbreak associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes that have been reported from 26 states.

With three additional fatalities, the death toll in the outbreak is also still growing and has reached 28. Colorado, Kansas, and New York State have each suffered one additional death during the past week. Colorado has had the most deaths with seven, and the overall fatality rate stands at 21 percent.

The breakdown by state of confirmed cases and deaths:

Alabama: 1 illness 

Arkansas: 1 illness

California: 2 illnesses

Colorado: 37 illnesses, 7 deaths

Idaho: 2 illnesses

Illinois: 3 illnesses

Indiana: 3 illnesses, 1 death

Iowa : 1 illness

Kansas: 10 illnesses, 3 deaths

Louisiana: 2 illnesses, 2 deaths

Maryland: 1 illness, 1 death

Missouri: 6 illnesses,  2 deaths

Montana: 1 illness

Nebraska: 6 illnesses, 1 death

New Mexico: 14 illnesses, 5 deaths

New York: 2 illnesses, 2 deaths

North Dakota: 1 illness

Oklahoma:  11 illnesses, 1 death

Oregon: 1 illness

Pennsylvania: 1 illness

South Dakota: 1 illness

Texas:  18 illnesses, 2 deaths

Virginia: 1 illness

West Virginia: 1 illness

Wisconsin: 2 illnesses

Wyoming: 4 illnesses,  1 death

The latest CDC report says those who have died in the outbreak ranged in age from 48 to 96 years. The median age of those who have died is 84 years.

CDC also said four of the illnesses were related to pregnancy; one infection was diagnosed in a newborn and three were diagnosed in pregnant women. One miscarriage has been reported.  The agency said other pregnancy outcomes are being monitored.

Almost all — 98 percent — of those stricken with listeriosis have required hospitalization. In addition to pregnant women, the elderly are the most impacted by Listeria.

In the current outbreak, CDC says it is finding that some ill persons are not sure when symptoms began, but the time between when symptoms are reported and when a clinical specimen is being collected for testing for listeriosis is about two days.

Because of reporting delays, CDC says it may be difficult to tell when the current outbreak will be considered over. Currently, no cases after Sept. 28 are included in the tally so the outbreak numbers may continue to grow.

The incubation period for Listeria is unusually long, running from about 48 hours to more than two months from exposure to the pathogen to showing symptoms. 

The outbreak has affected people in 26 states, although Jensen Farms says it distributed its “Rocky Ford” cantaloupes to 24 states. On Sept. 14, it recalled its entire distribution, all the cantaloupe it shipped from July 29 to Sept. 10. At least 1.5 million individual cantaloupes were involved in the recall. 

It is highly unlikely any contaminated melons remain in circulation or even in private refrigerators.

 

The cantaloupe contamination is believed to have occurred in the Jensen Farms packing house in Granada, CO.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found outbreak strains on the packing equipment and in pooled water on the floor. It faulted the operation for lapses in basic sanitation practices.

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CDC Outbreak Map

© Food Safety News
  • http://www.foodsafetybootcamp.com Kevin Walters

    It is so unfortunate that we have to experience this loss of life and devastation to an industry because of poor sanitatian practices. It is an unpleasant reminder that food safety is job that can not be taken lightly.

  • Marc

    Surely it’s significant that Jensen is an organic farm, and the melons were sold as “pesticide free.” Why hasn’t that been brought out in this article or other media outlets??