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For Release: Sept. 16, 2011 – Larry Weatherford, Office of Communications – (405) 271-5601

One Oklahoma Death Confirmed From Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has now confirmed a total of six cases of listeriosis related to cantaloupe shipped by Jensen Farms from the Rocky Ford, CO, growing region. All six cases were hospitalized and one of these died.  An additional four listeriosis cases are under investigation, and are suspected to be related to the nationwide outbreak.  All of the Oklahoma cases are over the age of sixty.  While particularly severe for the elderly, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems, state officials recommend that all Oklahomans avoid recalled Rocky Ford cantaloupe shipped by Jensen Farms.

Jensen Farms is voluntarily recalling Rocky Ford Cantaloupe. The recalled cantaloupes were shipped from the Rocky Ford growing region of Colorado from July 29 through September 10 and are potentially linked to a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis. The recalled cantaloupes were distributed to at least 17 states with possible further distribution. 

Recommendations for consumers:  Recalled cantaloupes may still be in grocery stores and in consumers' homes.

  • OSDH recommends that persons at high risk for listeriosis, including older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women, not eat cantaloupes shipped by Jensen Farms.   A label on the cantaloupe will have the Jensen Farm brand.
  • Consumers who have 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 the Rocky Ford region of Colorado.  
  • 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.

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 incubation period for listeriosis averages 3 weeks, but can be as long as 70 days.  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;

http://www.ok.gov/health/Disease,_Prevention,_Preparedness/Acute_Disease_Service/Disease_Information/Listeriosis.html 

or the CDC website at  http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/

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