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UPDATED August 17, 2012 @8:55pm with information released by CDC

Cantaloupes from Southwestern Indiana are believed to be the source of a Salmonella typhimurium outbreak that has sickened 141 people in 20 states. Thirty-one people have been hospitalized, and Kentucky has reported two outbreak-associated deaths.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports that an unnamed farm in southwestern Indiana has initiated a “voluntary market withdrawal” and has stopped harvest of cantaloupes, after receiving notification that cantaloupes grown on the farm tested positive for the outbreak strain of Salmonella.

FDA reports that outbreak illnesses occurred in 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).

According to Charles Kendell with the Kentucky Department for Public Health, there were 137 reports of Salmonella in the state during July – twice the usual number for this time of year. Approximately 61% of confirmed cases reported exposure to cantaloupe and/or watermelon. Lab testing of clinical specimens from outbreak victims confirmed three different genetic strains of Salmonella typhimurium.

Tennessee’s six confirmed cases were scattered among several counties; three of the six victims in that state were hospitalized. The three Minnesota victims included one child and two adults over 70 years of age. No Minnesotans were hospitalized, and all three have recovered.

CDC reports that outbreak victims range in age from less than 1 to 92 years, with a median age of 49 years old. Illness onset dates are between July 7, 2012 to August 4, 2012. Nearly one-half (48%) of the people for whom information was available reported being hospitalized.

The pale blue shaded area in the Date of Illness Onset chart, provided by CDC, represents the time period within which illnesses may have occurred that have not yet been reported or confirmed by health authorities. THIS OUTBREAK IS FAR FROM OVER.

FDA offers the following advice to consumers:

  • Consumers who are buying or have recently bought cantaloupe should ask their retailer if the cantaloupe was grown in southwestern Indiana.
  • Throw away any cantaloupe from southwestern Indiana.
  • Do not try to wash the harmful bacteria off the cantaloupe as contamination may be both on the inside and outside of the cantaloupe. Cutting, slicing and dicing may also transfer harmful bacteria from the fruit’s surface to the fruit’s flesh.
  • WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!
  • Anyone who consumed cantaloupe and experiences any symptoms of Salmonella infection should consult a health care provider.
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