Deaths in Salmonella Outbreak Traced to Cantaloupe

2 Dead So Far in 20-State Salmonella Outbreak From Indiana Cantaloupes

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 20, 2012 -- Two people from Kentucky have died in an ongoing 20-state salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 141 people.

CDC officials say cantaloupe from "a farm in southwestern Indiana" is responsible for the outbreak. These cantaloupes were shipped to other states. Neither the CDC, the FDA, nor state officials have identified the farm that grew the cantaloupes or the stores that sold them.

Among people for whom records are available, about half of the people infected during the outbreak have been hospitalized. The outbreak began in early July. Illnesses that began near the end of July may not have been reported.

The salmonella-laden cantaloupe behind this outbreak is not the same as the North Carolina cantaloupe also under recall. The North Carolina melons are contaminated with different bacteria -- listeria. This recall recently expanded to include all cantaloupe and honeydew melons produced this season by Burch Farms. Some of these melons may carry labels identifying them as coming from Cottle Strawberry Inc.

While there have been no illnesses yet reported from the listeria-laden cantaloupe, the salmonella outbreak has sickened people in 20 states: Alabama (7 reported cases), Arkansas (3), California (2), Georgia (1), Illinois (17), Indiana (13), Iowa (7), Kentucky (50), Michigan (6), Minnesota (3), Missouri (9), Mississippi (2), New Jersey (1), North Carolina (3), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (6), Texas (1), and Wisconsin (2).

In every outbreak, the number of cases reported to the CDC is far smaller than the actual number of people who get sick.

The CDC advises people who know they have bought either cantaloupe from southwestern Indiana or from Burch farms to throw them out. Many of the melons bear no identifying label. The CDC's advice: "When in doubt, throw it out."

Salmonella Symptoms

A person who eats food contaminated with salmonella usually gets diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours later. Illness usually lasts four to seven days. Most people get better without any treatment at all. But sometimes the diarrhea is so severe a person must be hospitalized.

In unusually severe cases, salmonella infection spreads from the gut into the blood, and then to other parts of the body. Such infections may be fatal without immediate antibiotic treatment. Older people, infants, and people with impaired immune systems are more likely than others to have severe illness after salmonella infection.

Listeria Symptoms

Listeria can cause severe, sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Pregnant women infected with listeria risk miscarriage or stillbirth.

However, healthy younger people may suffer only short-term fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Listeria symptoms usually appear one to three weeks after eating contaminated food. However, symptoms may occur as early as three days and as late as 70 days after infection.

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SOURCES: News release, CDC. News release, Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. News releases, FDA. CDC web site.

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