At least 21 people have died from an outbreak of listeria traced to cantaloupes contaminated with the bacteria. More than 109 people have been sickened. The cases of illness and death have been reported in 24 states all across the U.S., including New York. One of the victims killed in the current food poisoning outbreak was a New Yorker.
The number of people who have died or been sickened by the contaminated fruit products may go up because it can take up to two months for a person to fall ill after they eat listeria. The typical length of time between eating the bacteria and becoming ill is one to three weeks. Officials also may not have yet received reports and confirmed deaths of people who died from eating the cantaloupe before the recall began.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that one woman has suffered a miscarriage as a result of listeriosis, or a listeria infection. The bacteria is most dangerous for older people and for people with weakened immune systems.
Women who are pregnant have weaker immune systems because the immune system naturally goes down so that the body does not reject and attack the developing fetus. Listeria eaten by a pregnant woman may cause flu-like symptoms for her, but it also may infect the fetus and can cause a serious illness that can result in a miscarriage, stillbirth or permanent disability.
Older people may experience nausea, fever, diarrhea and muscle aches. Symptoms can develop into confusion and incapacitation.
Any Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Colorado should be thrown away. Any refrigerator surfaces that the cantaloupe touched should be washed with a bleach solution to kill the bacteria because it can continue to live in the cold temperature.
Source: CNN, “Death toll from tainted cantaloupes rises to 21,” Oct. 7, 2011