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29th Death Reported in Listeria Cantaloupe Outbreak

One more death, six more cases and two more states were added Wednesday to the toll in the 28-state outbreak of Listeria infection caused by contaminated cantaloupes from Colorado’s Jensen Farms.

In what has become its weekly update of the most deadly incidence of listeriosis since 1985, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that as of 9 a.m. Nov. 1, 139 persons were infected with any one of four outbreak-associated strains of L. monocytogenes.

CDC said the addition of Nevada and Utah — each reporting their first case — expanded the footprint of the outbreak to 28 states.

One additional adult death raised the total number of fatalities to 29.  One woman who was pregnant when she became ill had a miscarriage. The toll by state:

Colorado: 8 deaths

Indiana: 1 death

Kansas: 3 deaths

Louisiana: 2 deaths

Maryland: 1 death

Missouri: 2 deaths

Nebraska: 1 death

New Mexico: 5 deaths

New York:  2 deaths

Oklahoma: 1 death

Texas: 2 deaths

Wyoming: 1 death.

Those who died ranged in age from 48 to 96, according to the CDC. The median age is 81.  

At present, the overall fatality rate for the outbreak is 20 percent, half the rate Canada experienced in the 2008 Listeriosis outbreak that stemmed from ready-to-eat meats produced by a Maple Leaf plant in Toronto.

In the cantaloupe outbreak, those sickened by Listeria range in age from 1 to 96, and most are over 60. The median age is 77. Women make up 57 percent of the total. The list of patients includes three pregnant women and two newborns.

Among the 134 patients for whom information is available, the CDC said 132, or 99 percent, required hospitalization.

The cases reported by states:

Alabama: 1 case

Arkansas:1 case

California: 2 cases

Colorado: 39 cases

Idaho: 2 cases

Illinois: 3 cases

Indiana: 3 cases

Iowa: 1 case,

Kansas: 10 cases

Louisiana: 2 cases

Maryland: 1 case

Missouri: 6 cases

Montana: 1 case

Nebraska: 6 cases

Nevada: 1 cases

New Mexico: 15 cases

New York: 2 cases

North Dakota: 2 cases

Oklahoma: 11 cases

Oregon: 1 case

Pennsylvania: 1 case

South Dakota: 1 case

Texas:  18 cases

Utah: 1 case

Virginia : 1 case

West Virginia: 1 case

Wisconsin: 2 cases

Wyoming: 4 cases.

The CDC said the confirmed case counts include those with onset dates beginning July 31, 2011 and running through Oct. 21.

Prior to this outbreak, the most lethal recorded Listeria outbreak in the United States was in 1985 and linked to contaminated Mexican-style soft cheese. That outbreak caused the deaths of 18 adults and 10 newborns, as well as 20 miscarriages, according to the CDC.

In the current outbreak, the CDC update said 94 percent of the patients reported eating cantaloupe before the onset of their illnesses. Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Colorado has been traced as the cause; lab tests detected the outbreak strains of Listeria on melons in grocery stores and homes and on equipment in the packing facility.

  

On Sept. 14 Jensen Farms recalled at least 1.5 million cantaloupes shipped between July 29 and Sept. 10 to 24 states.

The CDC says about 800 laboratory-confirmed cases of Listeria are reported in the U.S. annually, with three or four outbreaks being typical.  Deli meats, hot dogs and soft cheese made from unpasteurized milk are the usual sources of Listeria infection.  In the last two years, however, sprouts, celery and now cantaloupes have been the source of illnesses.

CDC Outbreak Map:

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