The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and public health officials in multiple other states are investigating an outbreak of Listeria infections. The OSDH is joining other state and federal agencies in warning consumers, especially individuals at high-risk of Listeria infection, not to eat cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford, CO, growing region.
As of Sept. 12, 15 cases in four states, including Colorado, Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, have been linked to the multistate listeriosis outbreak investigation. In Oklahoma, one case has been identified as associated with this outbreak. Six other recently reported cases of listeriosis among Oklahomans are under investigation to determine if they are related to the outbreak. Preliminary results from the investigation have identified consumption of cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford region as the likely source.
Recommendations for consumers: Contaminated 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 marketed as coming from the Rocky Ford region of Colorado.
* 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 the Rocky Ford region 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 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.
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/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/listeriosis/outbreak.html .