August 20, 2012 — According to a statement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana may be the source of an ongoing outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium. A total of 141 cases of Salmonella poisoning have been linked to this strain of Salmonella. At least two people have died from the disease.
Health officials traced the source of the outbreak when 18 of 24 people reported eating cantaloupe in the last week. The illnesses began in early July, and the outbreak is ongoing.
The farm has recalled its cantaloupes and agreed to stop selling cantaloupes for the rest of the season. Health authorities are recommending that people in Indiana and Kentucky should throw out any cantaloupes that were purchased recently.
According to the FDA:
The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (7), 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).
Kentucky is the hardest-hit state, where 31 people were hospitalized and two deaths were reported.
The symptoms of Salmonella begin 12-72 hours after infection, and include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and more. Most healthy adults recover from the illness within 4-7 days. Unfortunately, Salmonella food poisoning can be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. The Salmonella bacteria can spread from the intestines, into the bloodstream, and then other parts of the body. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to a life-threatening Salmonella infection. Every year, about 400 people die from acute salmonellosis.
This is not the first deadly outbreak of cantaloupe food poisoning. Last year, an outbreak of Listeria bacteria was traced to cantaloupe from Colorado. At total of 139 people were infected across 20 states. One women had a miscarriage, and 29 people died in the outbreak.
The problem with cantaloupes is that their porous surface makes it easy for bacteria to cling to the surface. The melons are grown on the ground, and they can pick up dirt and germs from manure that runs off from nearby livestock fields. Adequately washing cantaloupes is nearly impossible. When a knife is used to cut the cantaloupe, it can transfer bacteria from the skin of the melon to the flesh, which is eaten.
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