Listeria Deaths on the Rise: 16 Dead from Contaminated Cantaloupe

Category: Health / Sep 28, 2011 10:10AM EDT
They are calling it the deadliest food outbreak in more than a decade. Health officials say there have been as many as 16 deaths from possible listeria illness traced to Colorado cantaloupes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday that 72 illnesses, including 13 deaths, are linked to the contaminated melon. Eight people died from the outbreak last week, and state and local health departments in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas have added 5 more to the list. 18 states have reported the illness, but Colorado, the source of the tainted cantaloupes, has the highest number. Investigators have traced the outbreak to cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms in Granada, Colo., following the finding of listeria in a sample from there. The number of deaths is likely to grow since the incubation period for listeria is considerably long, and the fatality rate is high for groups like pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Listeria is very dangerous… more deadly than well known pathogens like Salmonella and E. Coli., although it doesn’t usually infect as many people. Listeria flourishes in cool temperatures, and most of the 800 reported U.S. cases each year are linked to meats and soft cheese. The Food and Drug Administration has advised consumers to throw out all recalled melons.