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March 1, 2024

Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Contaminated Cantaloupe Sickens Over 200, Kills 8

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Dec 7, 2023

A deadly outbreak of salmonella infections linked to contaminated cantaloupe has sickened over 200 people and caused 8 deaths across the United States and Canada.

Over 200 Illnesses Reported Across Multiple States

As of December 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 117 illnesses across 21 states related to the outbreak. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has also identified over 90 confirmed cases. [1]

The outbreak has rapidly accelerated in recent weeks, more than doubling in size since the CDC first issued a food safety alert on November 30. The agency has warned consumers not to purchase or eat any pre-cut cantaloupe if you don’t know where it was sourced from. [2]

So far, Minnesota has emerged as the outbreak’s hot spot with 32 infections. However, illnesses tied to the tainted cantaloupe have occurred across a wide geographical area, spanning over 30 states, indicating widespread distribution of the contaminated melons. [3]

State Number of Illnesses
Minnesota 32
Michigan 13
Ohio 10
Illinois 8
Indiana 7
Iowa 6
Missouri 5
Texas 5
Wisconsin 5
Arkansas 3

Table 1: States with the highest number of reported salmonella cases linked to contaminated cantaloupe as of December 8, 2023. (Source)

The true number affected is likely higher, as some infections may be unreported or undiagnosed. The outbreak is still actively expanding, according to health agencies.

8 Deaths in the U.S. and Canada

At least 8 fatalities have now occurred in connection with the cantaloupe-related outbreak: 5 deaths have been confirmed in Canada by PHAC, along with 3 deaths within the United States according to the CDC. [4]

The first reported death occurred in October, but most fatalities happened more recently as the total number of illnesses has mounted over the past month. Those who died ranged in age from ages 72 to 92.

All salmonella infections can become severe or fatal in vulnerable groups like young children, frail elderly individuals, and those with weakened immune systems. Officials have warned these high-risk groups to take particular care to avoid consuming the contaminated fruit.

The outbreak is still considered ongoing, so it remains concerning that both case counts and deaths from infection continue rising. Canada has reported the most fatalities so far.

Recall and Investigation Efforts Expanding

In response to the growing epidemic, food safety organizations have enacted a series of voluntary recalls aimed at containing distribution of the tainted melons. However, investigators have so far been unable to pin down a single source for the contamination.

Recalls from companies like Pacific Trellis Fruit and Fresh Cut Fruit Express cover whole cantaloupes as well as pre-cut melon products containing cantaloupe. The recalls apply to fruit sold under various brand names at major grocery store chains across North America. [5]

Despite these efforts, the CDC’s latest food safety alert stresses that “additional products may soon be added to the recall list,” while urging consumers not to eat any pre-cut cantaloupe without knowing its original source. The agency also advises thoroughly washing whole cantaloupes to help reduce the risk of salmonella. [6]

Both the CDC and Canadian health authorities continue investigating to pinpoint the contamination source. The broad geographic spread of cases hampers tracing efforts. So far, genetic testing hints that illnesses may stem from at least two distinct salmonella strains, meaning multiple contaminated produce sources could be involved. [7]

Investigators have also begun analyzing distribution records for leads. Additional produce testing by state labs and federal food safety agencies is underway as well.

Ongoing Health Risks

With the source of the outbreak still unknown, health officials warn salmonella risks from contaminated cantaloupe could persist for some time. The situation poses special concerns going into the holiday season, where demand for melons and pre-cut fruit often rises.

Symptoms of salmonella infection typically develop 6 hours to 6 days after exposure. They include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever lasting 4-7 days. Most recover without treatment, but some cases lead to severe dehydration or invasive infections requiring hospital care.

Health officials urge seeking medical attention for severe or prolonged symptoms, especially in higher risk groups like young kids, the elderly, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals. Testing can confirm salmonella and enable targeted treatment. Strict hygiene and sanitation practices provide the best protection given the ongoing threats.

While risks remain elevated, consumers shouldavoid pre-cut cantaloupe from unclear sources in stores and restaurants. Carefully washing whole melons and thorough cooking of cut fruit can also reduce chances of illness. Ongoing investigation efforts aim to halt distribution of contaminated items as quickly as possible. But until the outbreak’s underlying cause is found and contained, sporadic cases could continue developing across affected regions.

Health organizations plan to provide updated information to the public as their epidemiological tracing and food safety scrutiny continues. Further producer recalls also look likely if links to contamination emerge. In the meantime, enhanced precautions around cantaloupe consumption are warranted to limit additional illnesses and loss of life. The coming weeks will prove critical in determining whether public health interventions can successfully curb this threatening outbreak before infection totals climb even higher.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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