At least a dozen people have died in the United States from listeria infections linked to cantaloupes grown in Colorado, making it the most deadly U.S. outbreak of food-borne infection since 1998, authorities said.
Fifty-five people had become ill and eight had died as of last week in listeriosis cases linked to cantaloupe, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Since then, Texas has reported two deaths tied to infections from contaminated cantaloupe, Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said today in a telephone interview. Nebraska reported a death from the listeria outbreak on Sept. 23. Kansas has one death linked to the tainted fruit and is investigating a second death for a possible connection, said Barbara Hersh, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
In 1998, 21 people died from listeria linked to contaminated hot dogs, according to a CDC online database.
The Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 14 warned consumers not to eat cantaloupes from Colorado’s Rocky Ford region shipped by Jensen Farms. The cantaloupes were distributed from July 29 to Sept. 10 to at least 17 states. The previous deaths were in Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
Most affected people have been older than 60 or have weak immune systems, the CDC said in a statement last week. Lab tests have found Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in equipment and cantaloupes at the packing facility in Granada, Colorado, as well as cantaloupes in an ill patient’s home, the CDC said last week. Infections with the bacteria can cause diarrhea, muscle aches and fever.
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