(RxWiki News) Government health officials report that at least 13 people have died and 72 have been sickened from Colorado cantaloupes contaminated with the deadly listeria illness.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials are investigating an additional three deaths that may be linked to the fatal outbreak, which could bring the death toll to 16. Deaths have been reported in 18 states, most recently in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas.
"Do not eat cantaloupe until the recall is settled."
Four outbreak-linked strains of listeria have been reported so far. According to the CDC, those who contract listeriosis usually have symptoms including fever, muscle aches and gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea.
Whole cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms' production fields in Colorado were previously identified as the source of the contamination. The company voluntarily recalled its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes. The recalled cantaloupe were shipped to at least 17 states between July 29 and Sept. 10.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials in conjunction with local, state and federal health officials are still working to determine how the fruit became contaminated.
Customers should avoid eating recalled fruit, and are asked to throw it away. The listeria bacteria can grow regardless of whether the cantaloupe is refrigerated or at room temperature.
Listeria mostly sickens the elderly, pregnant women and individuals who may have compromised immune systems. The median age of those who has been sickened is 78 with about 20 percent of those who contract the disease can die, the CDC reported.
Additional cases are likely because it can take up to four weeks for symptoms to become apparent after a person has been infected.