The number of deaths linked to listeria-tainted cantaloupes has increased to 25 across 26 states in the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported Tuesday.
The number of people affected could continue to grow. In some cases listeriosis can take up to two months to develop, according to the Center. The CDC reported there have been six deaths in Colorado, five in New Mexico, two each in Texas, Kansas, New York and Louisiana. Also Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wyoming had one death each.
A pregnant woman also suffered a miscarriage as a result of the disease.
It has been determined that strains of the listeria monocytogenes bacteria was linked to Rocky Ford melons – produced by Jensen Farms in Granada, Colo. The cantaloupes were recalled Sept. 14 and no melons under the recall should still be present on store shelves, said the CDC.
The agency recommended that consumers should immediately dispose of any cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, even if some of it had been eaten. If the cantaloupe source is unknown, then the fruit should be thrown out. The CDC also urged people, unsure about the source of a cantaloupe, to ask their supermarket.
According to the Center, storing an infected cantaloupe in the refrigerator will not kill he bacteria and it is not recommended that consumers try washing off the bacteria.
This listeria outbreak is the deadliest since 1998 outbreak of listeria in hot dogs and possibly deli meats made by Bil Mar Foods. Prior to that, the deadliest outbreak in the United States was in Mexican-style soft cheese in 1985, which was linked to 52 deaths.
Government health officials said this is the first known outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe. Listeria is generally found in processed meats and unpasteurized milk and cheese, though there have been a growing number of outbreaks in produce.
Listeria is a type of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. The bacteria can lead to listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating contaminated food.
Pregnant women are at high risk for listeriosis as infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. Others at risk are those with weakened immune systems and adults older than 60.
Symptoms to look out for are: fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. The CDC recommends customers rinse all raw produce, including cantaloupes, under running water.