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18 Deaths From Cantaloupe-Linked Listeria Outbreak: CDC
Date:10/5/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The death toll from an outbreak of listeria first linked to tainted cantaloupes has risen to 18, and a total of 100 people have been sickened across 20 states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported late Tuesday.

The agency said that even though the cantaloupes in question were recalled Sept. 14, more cases might still emerge since Listeria monocytogenes infection has a long lag time between diagnosis and laboratory confirmation "and also because up to two months can elapse between eating contaminated food and developing listerosis."

The listeriosis-linked deaths have occurred in Colorado (5), Kansas (2), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (5), Oklahoma (1) and Texas (2), the CDC said.

On Sept. 14, the agency announced that Jensen Farms, of Granada, Colo., had voluntarily recalled its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes and the produce is "now off store shelves." Consumers -- especially older adults, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women -- should discard this brand of cantaloupe if it is in their refrigerator, the agency said. Other brands of cantaloupe are safe to consume, however.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the death toll from the current outbreak is on track to exceed that of the nation's worst listeria outbreak, in 1998, which was linked to hot dogs and killed 21 people while sickening 100 more.

In a news conference last Wednesday, CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden called the cantaloupe-linked outbreak "the deadliest outbreak of a foodborne disease that we've identified in more than a decade."

The update from the CDC marks another step in health officials' attempts to contain listeria outbreaks over the past month. On Friday, Alaska regulators announced that chopped romaine lettuce shipped from California had been recalled because of conc
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