An outbreak of listeria infections tied to contaminated Colorado cantaloupe has now sickened 116 people and left 23 dead, federal health officials reported Wednesday, making this the deadliest outbreak in more than 25 years. In addition, one pregnant woman who became ill had a miscarriage.
The rising toll reflects illnesses and deaths in 25 states caused by four outbreak strains of listeria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All of the illnesses began on or after July 31, but more are expected because people can develop listeriosis up to two months after eating contaminated food.
An investigation into the cause of the outbreak linked to recalled cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Holly, Colo., has not yet concluded, a federal Food and Drug Administration spokesman said.
Deaths have been reported in a dozen states, including five in Colorado; five in New Mexico; two each in Kansas, Louisiana and Texas; and one each in Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
The 23 deaths have surpassed 21 deaths tied to a listeria outbreak in 1998 tied to contaminated hot dogs and deli meat.
Illnesses have been reported in people aged 22 to 96, with a median age of 78. Most of those sickened are older than 60. Four of the illnesses were related to a pregnancy; one was diagnosed in a newborn and three were diagnosed in pregnant women.
Recalls tied to the outbreak include more than 300,000 cases of whole cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, and two different recalls of cut cantaloupe: A Sept. 23 recall of nearly 600 pounds of fresh cantaloupe from Carol's Cuts LLC of Kansas and an Oct. 6 recall of nearly 5,000 individual packages of cantaloupe by Fruit Fresh Up Inc. of Depew, N.Y.
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