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For Release: Sept. 13, 2011 – Larry Weatherford, Office of Communications – (405) 271-5601
Consumers warned not to eat Rocky Ford cantaloupe due to Listeria outbreak
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and public health officials in multiple other states are investigating an outbreak of Listeria infections. The OSDH is joining other state and federal agencies in warning consumers, especially individuals at high-risk of Listeria infection, not to eat cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford, CO, growing region.
As of Sept. 12, 15 cases in four states, including Colorado, Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, have been linked to the multistate listeriosis outbreak investigation. In Oklahoma, one case has been identified as associated with this outbreak. Six other recently reported cases of listeriosis among Oklahomans are under investigation to determine if they are related to the outbreak. Preliminary results from the investigation have identified consumption of cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford region as the likely source.
Recommendations for consumers: Contaminated cantaloupes may still be in grocery stores and in consumers' homes.
People who are at high risk for listeriosis are people age 60 or older; those with weakened immune systems from transplants or certain chronic diseases, immunosuppressive therapies or medications; and pregnant women. Healthy adults under age 60 rarely develop this illness.
The symptoms associated with listeriosis depend on the person infected. Healthy adults and children typically will not develop a serious illness. The symptoms may include fever, chills, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Elderly persons or persons with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of developing severe disease due to listeriosis; these persons may develop meningitis and experience sudden fever, intense headache, nausea, vomiting, mental confusion, and coma. Listeriosis also can cause miscarriages and stillbirths.
Individuals typically become infected after eating or drinking contaminated foods. Outbreaks of listeriosis have been linked to drinking unpasteurized “raw” milk and soft cheeses, contaminated produce, and ready-to-eat deli type meats or cold cuts. Individuals can decrease their risk of Listeria infection by avoiding deli meats unless reheated to an internal temperature of 165 F, refrigerated pâté or meat spreads, refrigerated smoked seafood, and soft cheeses such as queso fresco and brie unless they are made with pasteurized milk.
Consumers and food preparers should wash their hands before and after handling any melon. The surface of melons such as cantaloupes should be washed and dried with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting. Cut melon should be promptly refrigerated at less than 41 F / 5 C (32-34 F is optimal for cut melon storage.) Cut melons left at room temperature for more than four hours should be discarded.
For more information about listeriosis, visit the OSDH website at;
or the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/
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