September 20, 2011 / 1:35 AM / 8 years ago

Listeria outbreak deaths rise to four, CDC says

DENVER (Reuters) - The number of confirmed deaths from a listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe from a Colorado farm that spread to 10 states has grown to four, federal officials said on Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had last week put the death toll at two from the outbreak, which officials have linked to cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms Inc of Holly, Colorado, 200 miles southeast of Denver.

But the CDC now says two people had died in New Mexico, while one person died in Colorado and another in Oklahoma. The overall toll could still rise to six if the CDC confirms two more deaths reported in New Mexico by the state Department of Health.

A total of 35 people in 10 states have been infected since August 4, the CDC said on its website. That is an increase from the 22 illnesses the agency cited last week.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that it found listeria monocytogenes on samples taken from equipment and cantaloupe at Jensen Farms’ packing facility and in samples of its Rocky Ford brand cantaloupe taken from a Denver-area store.

Jensen Farms, which had already been linked to the outbreak, recalled its Rocky Ford cantaloupes on September 14 in response to the listeria outbreak.

The cantaloupes were shipped between July 29 and September 10 to at least 17 states, the FDA said in a statement.

The FDA has advised consumers not to eat the recalled cantaloupes and to throw them away.

Listeria outbreaks are usually associated with deli meats, unpasteurized cheeses and smoked refrigerated seafood products, rather than fresh produce.

Listeria infection can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women, people over the age of 60 and those with compromised immune systems, health officials said.

Those infected with gastrointestinal illness after consuming the bacteria experience flu-like symptoms, and in extreme cases can suffer convulsions and miscarriages or stillbirths in pregnant women. Antibiotics are effective in treating the infection in most cases.

Writing and additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Johnston

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