Listeria cases linked to melon 'probable' in Az
Tainted cantaloupe from Colo. could cause illness in state
PHOENIX — With Arizona among 25 states that received cantaloupe from Colorado that has been linked with a listeria outbreak, it is “probable to possible” that some people will get sick during the next few weeks, a state health official said Thursday.
“It’s possible that people consumed that cantaloupe before it was completely recalled and the outbreak could still be going on for certain cases,” said Joli Weiss, waterborne disease and outbreak capacity epidemiologist at the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Weiss said no cases of listeria linked to Rocky Ford cantaloupe have been reported to the state health department. But although the suspected fruit probably is off shelves by now, Arizona could still see cases because people can develop symptoms weeks after being exposed to the listeria bacteria, she said.
“We could probably say if we haven’t received any cases … by mid–October then we’re out of the woods,” Weiss said.
Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms of Holly, Colo., tainted with the potentially deadly listeria bacteria have caused dozens of illnesses and at least 13 deaths in 18 states since July 31, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC said it expects more cases of listeria to be reported in October because of the bacteria’s incubation time.
The cantaloupes, shipped between July 29 and Sept. 10, were recalled by Jensen Farms on Sept. 14, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Weiss said the state health department received an email from the FDA in August about the outbreak and informed the state’s 15 counties.
“We are prepared, and we have increased our surveillance,” Weiss said. “We will immediately, upon receiving a new report of any suspect cases of listeria, be obtaining specimens for testing and doing interviews.”
The FDA recommends not eating the recalled cantaloupes and throwing them away instead of trying to wash them.
Weiss said consumers should contact grocery stores if they are unsure about the origin of the cantaloupes and get rid of fruit if they can’t determine where it is from.
“When in doubt, throw it out,” Weiss said.
Listeria, which causes symptoms including fever, muscle aches and gastrointestinal problems, is usually caused by food contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium. It causes an estimated 255 deaths each year, according to the CDC.
Older people, pregnant women, newborns and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk.
Weiss said in an email that six cases of listeria not linked to the ongoing outbreak have been reported in the state so far in 2011. Twelve cases were reported in 2010 and eight in 2009, she said.