Last week, CDC and FDA issued updated alerts about the multi-state Listeria outbreak associated with cantaloupe. The alerts are based on 72 cases that have been identified since the beginning of August, resulting in 13 deaths.
Listeria is a bacteria that causes fever and diarrhea, and usually resolves on its own. However, for the elderly and people with suppressed immunity, this infection can be much more severe and and sometimes fatal. It can also cause miscarriage or fetal damage, so it is especially dangerous for pregnant women.
Most notable is that this organism can grow at refrigerator temperatures, and is killed by cooking. For raw fruit like cantaloupe, thorough rinsing before eating is recommended. The CDC has identified certain brands of cantaloupe, grown in southern Colorado, that should not be eaten.
CDC update, 9-21-11: http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/listeriosis/outbreak.html
CDC Listeria page: http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/index.html
FDA press release, 9-14-11: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm271899.htm
Keep an eye out for updates on this situation.
Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University