CDC confirmed today that a total of 35 people infected with Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 10 states across the USA. Confirmed outbreak cases were identified in California (1), Colorado (12), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Montana (1), Nebraska (4), New Mexico (5), Oklahoma (6), Texas (3) and West Virginia (1), according to the federal agency. Four people have died – two in New Mexico, and one each in Colorado and Oklahoma.

In addition to the 35 confirmed cases, the following states have reported other cases that are still under investigation: Kansas (6), Missouri (2), Montana (1), New Mexico (5), Oklahoma (4), and Wyoming (1). These numbers include three fatal cases – two in New Mexico and one in Missouri.

If all of the suspect cases now under investigation are confirmed to be part of the outbreak, the total number of victims will increase to 54 people in 13 states – even if no additional new cases are reported.

And the death toll will rise to seven.

On September 16th, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported having recovered the outbreak strain from several cantaloupe samples originating from Jensen Farms, Inc. (Holly, CO). Earlier today, FDA confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes on Jensen Farms’ Rocky-Ford brand cantaloupes, and on samples taken from equipment and cantaloupe at the Jensen Farms packing facility.

Jensen Farms recalled its Rocky Ford cantaloupes last week, when the melons first were implicated in the outbreak, and before lab confirmation was available. A partial retail distribution list can be found on eFoodAlert, and will be updated periodically as more information becomes available.

According to CDC, at least one-half of the 35 confirmed outbreak victims are elderly – the median age of patients is 81 years. Overall, confirmed case-patients range between 35 to 96 years of age. Nearly two-thirds of the patients are female. All 28 of the victims for whom information is available were hospitalized.

Yesterday, I sent a message to my government contacts all fifty states, requesting information on this outbreak. So far, I have received detailed information from Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas, which I have reported below. Some states (those with live links) have released additional details on-line.

Illinois:- The lone confirmed Illinois victim is from Cook County. No other details are available.

Kansas:- The state has recorded six cases of Listeria monocytogenes infections since August 26th. As of September 15th, none of the cases had been definitively linked to the outbreak; however, investigations are still underway and lab results are pending. Rocky Ford cantaloupes were distributed in Kansas.

Missouri:- The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is investigating two cases of Listeria monocytogenes that may be linked to the multistate outbreak.

Montana:- The confirmed outbreak victim is from Yellowstone County; the case under investigation is from Gallatin County.

Nebraska:- All four of Nebraska’s confirmed cases are 70+ years old, including one in his/her 80s and 2 in his/her 90s. All four of the victims were hospitalized, and all survived. The first illness onset in Nebraska is reported to be July 21st, and the most recent was September 10th.

New Mexico:- New Mexico reports five confirmed cases, including 2 deaths. An additional five cases – including 2 more deaths – are still under investigation. All ten cases were hospitalized. Victims’ ages range from 43 to 96 years, and include 6 women and 4 men. Patients are from seven different New Mexico counties. The earliest patient developed symptoms on August 20th; the most recent on September 8th. New Mexico reports that its Environment Department is working with Frontera Produce (Jensen Farms’ distributor) to assure the removal of recalled cantaloupes from grocery stores.

Oklahoma:- All six confirmed outbreak victims and all four still under investigation are at least 60 years old. All six of the confirmed victims were hospitalized.

Texas:- All three confirmed outbreak victims became ill in August; all three were hospitalized. The victims live in three different parts of the state – one each in North Texas, Southeast Texas and Far West Texas.

West Virginia:- The recalled cantaloupes were not distributed in this state. The one confirmed outbreak victim in West Virginia may have become ill in another state, according to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. The recalled Rocky Ford cantaloupes were distributed in the neighboring states of Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Wyoming:- One case of Listeria monocytogenes – a Laramie County man – is under investigation. The patient reported exposure to cantaloupe.

In addition, the following states confirmed by email that they have no Listeria monocytogenes cases under investigation: Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New York, and Oregon.

CDC reminds consumers to take the following precautions during this outbreak:

  • CDC recommends that persons at high risk for listeriosis, including older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women, do not eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms. Even if some of the cantaloupe has been eaten without anyone becoming ill, the rest of the cantaloupe should be disposed of immediately. Listeria bacteria can grow in the cantaloupe at room and refrigerator temperatures.
  • Other consumers who want to reduce their risk of Listeria infection should not eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms.
  • The recalled cantaloupes may have a sticker which looks like the image to the right. Not all of the recalled cantaloupes are labeled with a sticker. Consumers should consult the retailer if they have questions about the origin of a cantaloupe.
  • Listeriosis primarily affects older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and newborns. Persons who think they might have become ill from eating contaminated cantaloupe should consult their doctor immediately.
  • Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms should be disposed of in a closed plastic bag placed in a sealed trash can. This will prevent people or animals from eating them.