• Dead: 26 (including one stillbirth)
  • Infected: 123
  • Death rate: 20.3% (21% including the stillbirth)

With more than half of the nation’s states confirming at least one outbreak case of cantaloupe-related listeriosis and a greater than 20% death rate, the public is still in the dark as to which grocery stores sold Jensen Farms cantaloupes, and which restaurants served these contaminated melons.

A few supermarket chains have advised their customers that they carried the recalled cantaloupes. Others have assured their customers that they only carried melons from states other than Colorado (Jensen’s home). Walmart – named by at least two state health departments and by a number of outbreak victims as a vendor of the melons – has been silent. Whole Foods – named by New Mexico as a vendor – also has remained silent.

Outbreaks of listeriosis are slow to emerge, slow to be discovered, and very slow to wind down. The incubation period for this illness can be as long as 70 days – more than two months. This outbreak is no exception. The first confirmed cases developed in late July; the most recent reported onset was at the beginning of October. Additional illnesses are still under investigation in several states.

Listeriosis Onset Chart (from CDC's October 18, 2011 update)

Even though the recalled cantaloupes are no longer in household refrigerators, the Listeria monocytogenes that they carried may still be lingering. Juice from a cut cantaloupe may have dripped onto a refrigerator shelf and contaminated the refrigerator with Listeria monocytogenes – a microbe that easily grows in the cold.

The Listeria could then cross-contaminate other ready-to-eat items in the refrigerator – perhaps some other fruit, or possibly salad vegetables. Unless a consumer who stored recalled cantaloupe in her refrigerator is careful to clean and decontaminate all surfaces and bins, she and her family will remain at risk.

CDC continues to offer the following suggestions to anyone who may have purchased the recalled cantaloupes:

  • Dispose of cantaloupes in a closed plastic bag placed in a sealed trash can. This will prevent people and animals from eating them.
  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water;
  • Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately and clean the refrigerator regularly.
  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.

For information on which stores may have carried the Jensen Farms cantaloupes, please visit Jensen Farms Cantaloupes – Retail Distribution Information.