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Number of Deaths from Listeria Outbreak Expected to Rise Through October

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While E. coli and Salmonella are more commonly known bacteria, a new food borne illness is spreading and creating more serious consequences than these two contaminants. Listeria, linked to cantaloupe from Colorado, has already caused 13 deaths and 72 infections in 18 states and officials estimate the number to rise through the month of October.

Unlike E. coli or Salmonella, Listeria bacteria linger and can cause illness for up to two months after someone consumes a contaminated food. Officials have linked the outbreak to cantaloupes grown by Jensen Farms in Colorado shipped between July 29 and September 10. However, it is unclear how the Listeria got into the cantaloupes, considering that it is far more likely that processed meats or cheeses would become contaminated.

Compared to E. Coli and Salmonella infections that take mere days to rear their ugly heads, a Listeria infection is harder to pinpoint because of the time that it can take for symptoms to show up. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control says that those most likely to get ill from Listeria are the very young, the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems. Additionally, Listeria is known to cause pregnant women to miscarry. Symptoms range from mild diarrhea to more aggressive and life-threatening symptoms such as muscle or spinal tissue damage. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that consumers rinse all produce under running water, including the rinds of cantaloupes. Additionally, rinds should be scrubbed with a produce brush and should be dried with a clean cloth or an unused paper towel.