Facts About Listeriosis and Tainted Cantaloupes

Tainted Cantaloupes and Listeriosis: What You Need to Know

Listeria-tainted cantaloupes have now affected at least 14 states including Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and California. So far, 55 infections and eight deaths have been confirmed, and even more are suspected. Local, state, and federal health experts are investigating the increasing outbreak connected to whole cantaloupes grown in the Rocky Ford-region of Colorado and shipped by supplier Jensen Farms of Holly, CO. The FDA issued a cantaloupe recall on Sept. 14, after tests revealed victims were infected with four strains of listeria. Jenson Farms is fully cooperating with health officials to determine the cause of the outbreak.

The whole cantaloupes may be marked by one of two stickers: A green and white sticker that reads: Product of USA — Frontera Produce — Colorado Fresh — Rocky Ford Cantaloupe. Or, a gray, yellow, and green sticker that reads: Jensen Farms — Sweet Rocky Fords. If you've purchased cantaloupe from this company, throw it out ASAP. Even if you've eaten the melon and haven't gotten sick, ditch the fruit anyway as infections can arise up to two months after eating a food contaminated with listeria. Also, the FDA warns people not to attempt to wash away the bacteria as both the inside and outside of the melons might be contaminated.

I'm sure you have tons of questions about listeriosis, so keep reading to learn more about this infection, and find out what you can do to prevent getting sick.

What Is Listeriosis?
According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food that's contaminated with the bacterium listeria monocytogenes. Older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems are most at risk, but, rarely, it can affect others.

What Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms usually begin with diarrhea or other tummy troubles, and patients soon develop a fever and body aches. Those at high risk may also develop a headache, stiff neck, mental confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, which can be signs of fatal meningitis or encephalitis. Pregnant woman typically experience mild symptoms, but an infection can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or a life-threatening infection to the little one after birth.

How Does It Get Into Food Such As Cantaloupes?
The bacterium survives in soil and water, which explains how it is sometimes found in produce. Another issue is that the listeria bacterium can live in a food processing factory for years, which then contaminates raw meats, fruits, and veggies, or foods that have already been processed or cooked.

How Do I Prevent Contracting Listeriosis?
The best way to reduce your risk of getting sick is to cook raw food thoroughly, since listeria is killed when proper cooking procedures are followed. Rinse raw fruits and veggies well under running tap water and dry them with a paper towel. Also keep raw meats separate from veggies, stick to pasteurized dairy products, disinfect utensils and surfaces that have come in contact with uncooked foods, and make sure your fridge is set to 40°F or lower and the freezer 0°F or lower.

How is Listeriosis Treated?
If you suspect you've been exposed to Listeria and develop fever, chills, and other flu-like symptoms, contact your doctor immediately to get started on a dose of antibiotics.

Source: Thinkstock
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