Deadly Listeria Outbreak Kills 13
Written by Faith Anderson on September 28, 2011
Deadly Listeria Bacteria
Listeria generally only affects the elderly, pregnant women, and individuals with weakened immune systems. According to the CDC, the median age of those sickened by listeria is 78, and one in five people who contract the disease can die. Listeria is significantly more deadly than well-known bacteria like E. coli and salmonella, although those typically cause a greater number of illnesses. Symptoms of listeria include muscle aches and fever, often accompanied by other gastrointestinal symptoms. Victims of listeria often become incapacitated and are unable to speak.
Unlike many pathogens, listeria bacteria can grow at room temperature and even at refrigerator temperatures. The FDA and CDC have recommended that anyone who may have one of the contaminated cantaloupes dispose of it immediately and clean and sanitize any surfaces it may have touched. The CDC has reported the seventy-two illnesses and deaths from listeria in eighteen states, with the most illnesses reported in Colorado, at fifteen. Fourteen illnesses were reported in Texas, ten in New Mexico, and eight in Oklahoma. The FDA investigation regarding how the contamination may have happened is ongoing.
Death Toll from Listeria Outbreak Still on the Rise
The death toll released by the CDC Tuesday surpassed the number of deaths linked to an outbreak of salmonella in peanuts nearly three years ago. Two deaths associated with the contaminated cantaloupes have been confirmed in Texas, two in Colorado, four in New Mexico, and one death each in Kansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri. Health authorities are continuing to investigate additional deaths in several states that are believed to be linked to the tainted fruit. The CDC reports that about 800 cases of listeria are found in the United States each year, and there are usually three or four outbreaks. In 1998, twenty-one people died in an outbreak of listeria poisoning traced to contaminated hot dogs and possibly deli meats made by Bil Mar Foods, a subsidiary of Sara Lee Corp. Another large listeria outbreak killed fifty-two people in 1985 and was linked to Mexican-style soft cheese.
Recalled Cantaloupes Traced to Colorado
The listeria outbreak has been traced to Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado, which recalled the contaminated cantaloupes earlier this month. State health officials had found listeria in cantaloupes taken from grocery stores in the state and from a victim’s home that were grown at Jensen Farms. According to the FDA, matching strains of the disease were found on equipment and cantaloupe samples at Jensen Farms’ packing facility in Granada, Colorado. The Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes from Jensen Farms were shipped from July 29 through September 10 to Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. The FDA reports that the recalled cantaloupes may be labeled “Colorado Grown,” “Distributed by Frontera Produce,” “Jensenfarms.com,” or “Sweet Rocky Fords,” although not all of the recalled cantaloupes are labeled with a sticker.