Listeria Outbreak Spreading From Cantaloupe Distribution

Out of the two cases, there is one listeria outbreak death linked to cantaloupe, and those in the high-risk category are pregnant women with the most symptoms. It is a rare but potentially lethal food-borne infection with a 25 percent fatality rate. Salmonella, in comparison, has a mortality rate estimated at less than 1 percent.

Listeria can cause convulsions and stillbirths or miscarriages in women who are pregnant. The elderly and AIDS patients are also at high-risk. Colorado health officials say that there are potentially three states, where the contaminated cantaloupe may have been distributed.

Health officials are currently trying to track down where it was distributed and consumed. The three states are Colorado with nine confirmed cases, Texas having two and Nebraska having one. In all the cases, patients reported recently eating cantaloupe, according to The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“While the investigation into the source of the listeria outbreak is continuing, it is prudent with people who are at high risk for listeria infection to avoid consumption of cantaloupe,” Chris Urbina, chief medical officer for the department said in a written statement. Urbina added that officials haven’t yet traced where the tainted melons were sold.

Two patients have died in Colorado from listeria in the last month, but investigators can link just one death to the current outbreak. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is coordinating the investigation in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Pasteurization and sufficient cooking can kill listeria, but contamination may occur after cooking and before packaging.

For example, meat-processing plants producing ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs and deli meats, must follow extensive sanitation policies and procedures to prevent Listeria contamination.

Health officials add that those in the high-risk groups for contracting listeria should avoid unpasteurized soft cheeses, refrigerated smoked seafood and deli meats, unless they have been reheated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.