Public Health

Tainted Cantaloupes Claim 18 Lives, Sicken 100

William Thomas Beach, of Mustang, Okla.. is shown with granddaughter Katerine Crouse in an undated family photo. Beach died Sept. 1, and health officials linked his illness to the nationwide listeria outbreak. i i

William Thomas Beach, of Mustang, Okla.. is shown with granddaughter Katerine Crouse in an undated family photo. Beach died Sept. 1, and health officials linked his illness to the nationwide listeria outbreak.

AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP
William Thomas Beach, of Mustang, Okla.. is shown with granddaughter Katerine Crouse in an undated family photo. Beach died Sept. 1, and health officials linked his illness to the nationwide listeria outbreak.

William Thomas Beach, of Mustang, Okla.. is shown with granddaughter Katerine Crouse in an undated family photo. Beach died Sept. 1, and health officials linked his illness to the nationwide listeria outbreak.

AP

The warnings from public health officials that the deaths and illnesses from listeria-tainted cantaloupes could drag on for a while are proving true.

The death toll from cantaloupes grown by Jensen Farms has hit 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest report on the outbreak. A hundred people have been sickened in 20 states, with Colorado and New Mexico the hardest hit.

Even now, weeks after the suspect cantaloupes were recalled, the CDC cautions that there may be more reports of illness to come. The incubation period for listeriosis varies, but it can take as long as two months for symptoms to develop after eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. It also takes time to diagnose the infection and to confirm the finding with lab tests.

The Associated Press reports that Wyoming's state health department has identified a person whose death was linked to the outbreak and that wasn't included in the CDC's latest update.

Even though the source of the tainted cantaloupes has been identified as Jensen Farms, investigators still don't know exactly what caused the contamination. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said Tuesday that the investigation is continuing, according to the AP. The farm's water supply and listeria carried by animals are two possibilities.

Listeria bacteria can grow in silage, fodder for cattle and other farm animals, and some research suggests that cows, goats and sheep can serve as reservoirs for the germs. Manure from infected animals can then spread the bacteria.

An outbreak of listeriosis in Canada's Maritime Provinces 20 years ago was traced to a cabbage grown on a farm that used untreated sheep manure as fertilizer. The sheep had a history of listeria infection.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.