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Salmonella outbreak linked to Ind. cantaloupes

POSTED AT 11:58 PM ON Aug. 19, 2012  (UPDATED AT 12:26 AM ON Aug. 20, 2012)

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A southwest Indiana cantaloupe farm is believed to be the source of a recent salmonella outbreak causing two deaths and 141 illnesses in 20 states, according to state and federal health officials.

Fourteen salmonella illnesses have been confirmed in Indiana during the last few weeks, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the outbreak has been most severe in Kentucky, where two deaths occurred and 50 people have been infected.

“Because the investigation is ongoing and we do not have a definitive source for this outbreak, we are advising all Hoosiers to throw away any cantaloupes they’ve recently purchased as a precaution,” State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin said in a press release. “We are working with other impacted states as well as our federal partners to locate the source as quickly as possible.”

Salmonella is passed in the stool, and people become infected by ingesting feces from an infected animal or person.

Ingesting feces is possible when eating raw or uncooked eggs or meats, homemade ice cream and eggnog or unwashed raw fruits, vegetables or herbs that have been contaminated by feces, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. Typically lasting four to seven days, most people recover from the illness without treatment. Infected people may carry the disease in their bodies for weeks or months without symptoms and unknowingly infecting others, according to the ISDH.

In rare instances, salmonella can get into the blood and infect organs such as the heart, lungs and bones. About 400 people in the United States die from acute salmonellosis each year, according to the FDA. About 635 cases of salmonella are reported in Indiana every year, according to the ISDH.

There is no connection between the recent salmonella outbreak and the 2011 multistate outbreak of listeriosis linked to whole cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, Colo.

The earliest known illness in the current outbreak occurred July 7, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infected individuals range in age from less than 1 year old to 92.

Twenty-four infected individuals were interviewed by health officials since the outbreak began, according to the CDC. Eighteen of those interviewed reported eating cantaloupe in the last week.

The Kentucky Division of Laboratory Services has isolated the outbreak strain from two cantaloupes collected from a retail outlet in Kentucky.

The southwest Indiana farm believed to have prompted the outbreak has contacted its distributors and is withdrawing its cantaloupe from the marketplace as a result of initial investigations by the state health departments in Indiana and Kentucky.

The farm has agreed to cease distributing cantaloupes for the rest of the growing
season.

The CDC is advising consumers to discard any recently-purchased cantaloupe grown in southwestern Indiana. Consumers can continue to purchase and eat cantaloupes not originating in southwest Indiana.

Consumers who show any signs of salmonella illness should consult their health care provider. The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD or consult fda.gov.

“Health care providers are encouraged to be mindful of patients who may have symptoms consistent with salmonellosis and report all cases to the local health department,” Larkin said.

 

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