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Rocky Ford Cantaloupes Suspected in Listeria Outbreak That Has Killed 4 People; Critics Say Bacteria Could Have Come from Anywhere

Sat September 17 2011 2:41 pm  http://www.arlingtoncardinal.com/?p=47550
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State and local health officials are investigating an outbreak of possible Listeria cases. There have been reports of possible Listeria cases in Illinois, including some in Cook County, but the Illinois Department of Health says none of those have been confirmed. Serious infection is linked to eating a kind of cantaloupe grown in Colorado that was shipped to Illinois and 16 other states.

The Illinois Department of Health says at least 20 people were reported ill in the United States after eating cantaloupes contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Four victims died from the illness.


The Illinois Department of Health is working with the Centers of Disease Control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and local village and city health departments in Illinois.

The confirmed cases have been linked to Rocky Ford cantaloupes shipped by Jensen Farms in Colorado.

Jensen Farms, the Holly, CO-based grower of Rocky Ford cantaloupes, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have already had a lawsuit filed against them Thursday by Colorado Springs residents Charles and Tammy Palmer.

Charles Palmer, 71, became ill with symptoms of listeriosis — the illness caused by Listeria — on August 30, 2011. His symptoms included headache and fatigue. The next morning, he was found unresponsive, and was rushed to the hospital where he is still recovering. He tested positive for the strain of Listeria involved in the outbreak.

Listeria monocytogenes, which takes over the cell machinery in host cells, is commonly found in soil, stream water, sewage, plants, and food. Listeria affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. Listeriosis is a serious disease for humans; the overt form of the disease has a mortality greater than 25 percent. The two main clinical manifestations are sepsis and meningitis. Meningitis is often complicated by encephalitis, a pathology that is unusual for bacterial infections. Symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, headache, stiff neck, confusion and convulsions.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration said it had not recalled the melons while it is working to locate the source. Critics say putting blame on the cantaloupes is silly because bacteria could be picked up anywhere.

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