The states of Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana have been hit hard in the latest outbreak of Salmonella linked to contaminated cantaloupe. The outbreak has sickened at least 141 people in 20 states and hospitalized 31.
“It is mind boggling how cantaloupe growers continue to ignore basic food safety measures that can prevent their cantaloupe from being contaminated with Salmonella and other dangerous pathogens,” said Fred Pritzker, a national food safety attorney who has won millions for his clients, including $4.5 million for one client this year.
The Kentucky Department of Public Health says that the outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium, which has sickened at least 50 Kentuckians and has been associated with two deaths in the state, began in early July. Public health officials are investigating other clusters of salmonellosis in Kentucky, which may be linked to cantaloupe or watermelon consumption. Acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steve Davis said, “healthcare providers are encouraged to be mindful of patients who may have symptoms consistent with salmonellosis and report all cases to the local health department.”
In Indiana, where 13 people are ill, state officials are asking that everyone discard cantaloupes purchased from July 7, 2012 to the present day. The cantaloupe is believed to have come from a farm in southwestern Indiana, although officials have not yet named that farm. Other farms, distributors, and retailers are being investigated as possible sources of the bacteria.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin said that, “because the investigation is ongoing and we do not have a definitive source for this outbreak, we are advising all Hoosiers to throw away any cantaloupes they’ve recently purchased as a precaution.” The elderly, infants, and those with compromised immune systems and chronic illnesses are more likely to suffer serious complications from Salmonella infections.
Illinois has 17 people included in the outbreak so far. About 2,000 cases of Salmonella are reported in that state every year. What’s interesting in this outbreak is that officials say the cantaloupes may have bacteria present on the inside of the flesh, so scrubbing the fruit, as is recommended, will not prevent illness.
The symptoms of Salmonella include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 t0 72 hours after infection. Patients may also have chills, nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches. The bacteria is found in intestines of many animals. Infection from produce is the result of cross-contamination, either through insanitary conditions, irrigation with contaminated water, or improper handling.