Salmonella linked to Indiana cantaloupe blamed for two deaths

August 17, 2012

A salmonella outbreak blamed on cantaloupe grown in Indiana has killed two people in Kentucky and sickened about 150 in the past month, health officials said Friday, and shoppers were urged to throw away melons bought in the region.

The outbreak traced to the cantaloupe began in early July and has struck consumers in Indiana, Kentucky and Minnesota. Indiana officials said there have been about 150 cantaloupe-linked cases nationwide.

“Usually, the pattern is to see outbreaks in the summer. But we’re seeing about double the number of cases this year,” said Kraig Humbaugh, a doctor with Kentucky’s Department for Public Health.

The illness caused by the food-borne organism usually causes a diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain, but it can be fatal for the elderly, children and people with weakened immune systems. Thousands of Americans contract salmonella illness each year, often from uncooked chicken.

Officials in the three states said they were trying to identify distributors and retail outlets selling the affected cantaloupes, but officials in Indiana and Kentucky urged people to throw out any of the melons bought recently.

Salmonella strains found in two cantaloupes from southwestern Indiana had the same genetic makeup as those causing a cluster of illnesses in Kentucky, Humbaugh said.

Watermelons from the region were also being investigated as a possible source of a smaller salmonella outbreak, he said.

— Reuters

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