Listeria Outbreak: More Cantaloupe Deaths Make Outbreak Deadliest in 25 Years

The outbreak of listeria stemming from tainted cantaloupes has claimed two more lives, making it the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in the United States in more than 25 years.

The two additional deaths from the outbreak were reported in Louisiana and raise the total of deaths from the contaminated cantaloupes up to 23.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 116 people have been sickened in the outbreak, including those who have died, according to the Associated Press.

Other deaths have occurred in Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.

However, the number of people affected by the outbreak may rise, because symptoms of listeria can take up to two months to appear.

The median age of individuals sickened by the cantaloupes is 78, but one miscarriage has also been associated with the outbreak.

The contaminated cantaloupes are linked to Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes sold out of the Colorado-based Jensen Farms. The cantaloupes should be off grocery store shelves by now as they were recalled last month, and their shelf life is only about two weeks.

This is the first known outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe, as the deadly bacteria are typically found in processed meats and unpasteurized milk and cheeses.

Listeria generally grows in moist and muddy conditions, and is often carried by animals.

The FDA is still investigating the cause of the outbreak, but is checking into the Jensen Farms’ water supply and possibility of animal intrusions to determine the cause of the outbreak.

Prior to the cantaloupe outbreak, the last deadliest listeria outbreak in the United States happened in 1985 when 52 people were killed from Mexican-style soft cheeses.

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