Public Health Alert – Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Rocky Ford Cantaloupes

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

                      The Illinois Department of Public

                      Health (IDPH), along with local health departments in

                      Illinois, is collaborating with the Centers for

                      Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S.

                      Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a

                      multistate outbreak of listeriosis, a serious

                      infection caused by eating food contaminated with the

                      Listeria monocytogenes bacteria – in this instance

                      linked to Rocky Ford Cantaloupes shipped by Jensen

                      Farms in Colorado.

                      A total of 22 people infected with the outbreak

                      strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported

                      from seven states, with illnesses reported since

                      August 15, 2011. The FDA has also reported that the

                      Rocky Ford Cantaloupes—which were voluntarily

                      recalled by Jensen Farms on September 14—were

                      distributed in at least 17 states, including

                      Illinois. Both the FDA & CDC have recommended that

                      consumers not eat Rocky Ford Cantaloupes from Jensen

                      Farms.

                      The number of infected persons identified in each

                      state is as follows:  Colorado (12), New Mexico (4),

                      Texas (2), Indiana (1) Nebraska (1), Oklahoma (1),

                      and West Virginia (1). The infected patients range in

                      age from 38 to 96 years old, with a median age of 81.

                      Most are over 60 years old or have health conditions

                      that weaken the immune system. 20 of the 22 ill

                      persons were hospitalized, and two deaths have been

                      reported.

                      Listeriosis illnesses in several other states

                      –including Cook County in Illinois—are currently

                      being investigated by state and local health

                      departments to determine if these illnesses are part

                      of this outbreak.

                      Signs and Symptoms

                      The symptoms of Listeria infection vary with the

                      infected person:

                      • Persons other than pregnant women: Symptoms, in

                      addition to fever and muscle aches, can include

                      headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and

                      convulsions.

                      • Pregnant women: Pregnant women typically experience

                      only a mild, flu-like illness. However, infections

                      during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth,

                      premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of

                      the newborn.              

                      Recommendations:

                      IDPH is reminding people to follow all food safety

                      recommendations to avoid potential illness, as

                      contaminated cantaloupes may still be in grocery

                      stores and in consumers' homes.

                      • Persons at high risk for listeriosis, including

                      older adults, persons with weakened immune systems,

                      and pregnant women, should not eat Rocky Ford

                      Cantaloupes marketed as coming from Jensen Farms of

                      Colorado.

                      • Consumers who have Rocky Ford Cantaloupes in their

                      homes can check the label or inquire at the store

                      where they purchased it to determine if the fruit was

                      marketed as coming from Jensen Farms of Colorado.

                      • Persons who think they might have become ill from

                      eating possibly contaminated cantaloupes should

                      consult their doctor immediately.

                      • Rocky Ford Cantaloupes marketed as coming from

                      Jensen Farms should be disposed of in a closed

                      plastic bag placed in a sealed trash can. This will

                      prevent people or animals from eating them.

                      General Melon Safety Advice:

                      • Consumers and food preparers should wash their

                      hands before and after handling any whole melon, such

                      as cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew.

                      • Wash the melons and dry them with a clean cloth or

                      paper towel before cutting.

                      • Cut melon should be promptly consumed or

                      refrigerated at or less than 40 degrees F (32-34

                      degrees F is optimal for storage of cut melon).

                      • Cut melons left at room temperature for more than 4

                      hours should be discarded.

                      More information about Listeriosis and

                      recommendations to reduce risk of getting Listeriosis

                      from food can be found at the CDC's Listeriosis

                      webpage.

                      More information about FDA Safety Recalls:

                      http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm271882.htm

A

                      More general information about listeriosis can also

                      be found at the IDPH website:

                      http://www.idph.state.il.us/health/infect/reportdis/listeria.htm