Listeria Outbreak Update: Cantaloupe Death Toll Rises to 21

A total of 21 people in the United States have now died from the nationwide outbreak of listeria in cantaloupes from a Colorado farm.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported new deaths in Indiana and New York. The CDC also confirmed a death in Wyoming that state officials reported last week.

In addition to the 21 dead, 109 people have been sickened in the outbreak in 23 states from California to the East Coast.

Health officials in Louisiana have said they are investigating two listeria deaths possibly related to the outbreak that are not included in the CDC’s count.

The agency previously reported five deaths in Colorado, five in New Mexico, two in Texas, two in Kansas and one each in Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Indiana, New York and Oklahoma. The CDC said it was aware of the one miscarriage associated with the outbreak.

This outbreak has now taken as many lives as the 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.

The CDC has traced the deadly epidemic to cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms in Granada, Colo. The cantaloupes were recalled Sept. 14 and no melons under the recall should still be present on store shelves, the agency said.

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.

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