UPDATE: Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis

UPDATED: Friday, September 30, 2011 --- 6:49p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Officials confirm that cantaloupes linked to a multi-state outbreak of listeria infection were sold in Wisconsin Aldi stores.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said Friday that the whole melons from Jensen Farms in Colorado, sold under the brand name Rocky Ford, were shipped to Aldi stores in Wisconsin between Aug. 16 and Sept. 13.

Once notified of the Jensen Farms recall, Aldi stores promptly removed the melons from their sales floor Sept. 13 and issued a nationwide recall. However, officials say some melons may remain in customers' homes.

The department is still determining whether other Wisconsin retail stores also received the cantaloupes.

Two cases of listeriosis among Wisconsin residents have been linked to the outbreak, but they have not been linked to cantaloupe bought at Aldi.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Posted Thursday, September 22, 2011 ---- 5:15 p.m.

According to the CDC there are 55 confirmed cases in 14 states.

Two are in Wisconsin. The states Department of Health Services is working to confirm the CDC's information.

As of right now we do not know where in the state the cases are located.

According to one local expert there are certain members of the population that should be concerned.

Chuck Czuprynski is a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the UW and is also the Director of the Food Research Institute.

For 30-years his lab has studied the bacteria listeria. He says this latest outbreak is unusual.

The median age of those infected is 78, 60% are women and the bacteria is being spread by cantaloupe.

" This is the first outbreak that has been associated with that food product, " says Czuprynski.

The symptoms can develop slowly sometimes taking months to surface and they can be nonspecific.

Signs and symptoms can range from from gastrointestinal distress to fever, chills, aches and pains.

Most healthy adults don't have to worry. But, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, like those being treated for cancer or suffering from AIDS, should be concerned.

Pregnant women are the most at risk group.

" It's not the woman herself who's at risk it's her fetus, " says Czuprynski.

There are several antibiotics used to treat listeria and if caught early on they are effective.

Listeria can not be transferred from person to person. If you have been feeling sick, are one of those at risk groups and recently ate cantaloupe from the Colorado area you may want to consider getting checked out by a medical professional.

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Posted Thursday, September 22, 2011 --- 12:15 p.m.

From the CDC:

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states, including Colorado, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of listeriosis.

Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Investigators are using DNA analysis of Listeria isolated from patients to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak. The Listeria bacteria are obtained from diagnostic testing; pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) is used to determine DNA fingerprint patterns. Investigators are using data from PulseNet, the national subtyping network made up of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories that performs molecular surveillance of foodborne infections.

As of 5pm EDT on September 20, 2011, a total of 55 persons infected with the 4 outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 14 states. All illnesses started on or after August 4, 2011.

The number of infected persons identified in each state is as follows: California (1), Colorado (14), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Maryland (1), Montana (1), Nebraska (4), New Mexico (10), Oklahoma (8), Texas (9), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (1). Listeriosis illnesses in several other states are currently being investigated by state and local health departments to determine if they are part of this outbreak.

Among persons for whom information is available, illnesses began on or after August 4, 2011. Ages range from 35 to 96 years, with a median age of 78 years old. Most ill persons are over 60 years old or have health conditions that weaken the immune system. Fifty-nine percent of ill persons are female. Among the 43 ill persons with available information on whether they were hospitalized, all were hospitalized. Eight deaths have been reported, 2 in Colorado, 1 in Maryland, 4 in New Mexico, and 1 in Oklahoma.

The outbreak can be visually described with a chart showing the number of persons who became ill each day. This chart is called an epidemic curve or epi curve. Illnesses that occurred after August 28, 2011, might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. Please see the description of the steps in a foodborne outbreak investigation for more details.

About 800 cases of Listeria infection are diagnosed each year in the United States, along with 3 or 4 outbreaks of Listeria-associated foodborne illness. The foods that typically cause these outbreaks have been deli meats, hot dogs, and Mexican-style soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Produce is not often identified as a source, but sprouts caused an outbreak in 2009, and celery caused an outbreak in 2010.

Ongoing collaborative investigations by local, state, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate the source of the outbreak is whole cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms’ production fields in Granada, Colorado. Among the 36 ill persons with available information on what they ate, 34 (94%) reported consuming cantaloupes in the month before illness onset. Several ill persons remembered the type of cantaloupe they had eaten and said they were Rocky Ford cantaloupes, which are grown in the Rocky Ford region of southeastern Colorado. Source tracing of the cantaloupes that ill persons ate indicated that they came from Jensen Farms, and were marketed as being from the Rocky Ford region. These cantaloupes were shipped from July 29 through Sept 10 to at least 17 states with possible further distribution.

Laboratory testing by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified Listeria monocytogenes bacteria on cantaloupes collected from grocery stores and from an ill person’s home. Product traceback information from Colorado state officials indicated these cantaloupes also came from Jensen Farms. Laboratory testing by FDAExternal Web Site Icon has identified L. monocytogenes matching outbreak strains in samples from equipment and cantaloupe at the Jensen Farms’ packing facility in Granada, Colorado. FDA is working closely with CDC, the firms involved, and public health authorities in states where illnesses occurred to determine the exact cause of contamination.

CDC advises persons throughout the mainland United States who are at high risk for listeriosis, including older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women, to not eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms. Other consumers who want to reduce their risk for Listeria infection should not eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms.

Although Jensen Farms issued a voluntary recall of Rocky Ford Cantaloupe on September 14, CDC expects that cases related to this outbreak may continue to be reported through October, because patients can develop listeriosis up to 2 months after eating contaminated food.


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