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New cases of salmonellosis reported in melon-related outbreak

Ten more people are sick in a Salmonella outbreak that has spread to two more states. Pre-cut melons are implicated, according to public health officials who renewed their public warnings yesterday about the fresh fruit products.

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The 10 new confirmed cases of Salmonella Adelaide bring the outbreak count to 70 victims across seven states. Out of 63 for whom the information is available, more than half have been so sick they had to be admitted to hospitals. No deaths have been reported, according to the June 19 update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the most recent person having become ill on June 3, the CDC reported it is expected more outbreak illnesses will be confirmed. 

“Illnesses that occurred after May 28 might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of 2 to 4 weeks,” according to the CDC update.

In an update earlier this month, the CDC reported most of the ill people ate pre-cut cantaloupe, watermelon, or a fruit salad mix with melon purchased from grocery stores before they became sick. Information collected from stores where ill people shopped indicated that Caito Foods LLC supplied pre-cut melon to those stores.

Initially, the implicated pre-cut melon was reported to have been distributed to only nine states. However, in its own update yesterday the Food and Drug Administration updated that count to 22 states. Others might be added to the list as state and federal officials continue their traceback investigations.

Both FDA and CDC repeated their warnings to consumers and retailers yesterday, urging them to not eat, serve or sell the implicated melon products. However, it is likely difficult to identify some of them because of the number of distributors and retailers involved. Also, the products were packaged in clear, plastic clamshell containers under several different brands or labels.

Distributors are known to have distributed the implicated melon products to Costco, Jay C, Kroger, Payless, Owen’s, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, Whole Foods/Amazon. Other retail locations may be added to the list, the FDA reported.

On June 8 Caito Foods LLC recalled some freshcut melon products and some individual retailers have followed suit, but there haven’t been any recalls from other distribution channels.  

“The FDA has posted a list of stores and states where recalled pre-cut watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and fruit medley products were sold. Additional stores and locations may be added as FDA receives more information,” the CDC update said. 

“Do not eat recalled products. Check your fridge and freezer for them and throw them away or return them to the place of purchase for a refund. If you don’t remember where you bought pre-cut melon, don’t eat it and throw it away.

“Retailers should not sell or serve recalled pre-cut melon products distributed by Caito Foods Distribution, Gordon Food Service, and SpartanNash Distribution.”

The FDA reported the implicated melon products have been distributed in: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

States reporting illnesses and the number of case each has confirmed as of yesterday were: Illinois with 7; Indiana with 11; Kentucky with 1; Michigan with 38; Missouri with 10; Ohio with 2; and Tennessee with 1.

Advice to consumers
Public health officials continue to remind consumers that it is particularly important for young children, adults older than 65, and pregnant women to avoid exposure to Salmonella because they are at higher risk of being infected. 

Anyone who has eaten pre-cut melon recently and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure. Specific tests are necessary to find Salmonella infections, which can be easily misdiagnosed as other illnesses.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop signs and symptoms 12-72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms can include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. In some people, diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized. 

Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body. In some cases, Salmonella infection can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

The illness usually lasts about a week or less in healthy adults, but other groups are at a higher risk of developing serious infections and complications. High-risk people include children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, transplant recipients and HIV patients.

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