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22-08-2012 | Article

Indiana-grown cantaloupe fingered as culprit in salmonellosis outbreak

Abstract

CDC announcement

medwireNews: A salmonellosis outbreak in 20 US states has been linked to cantaloupe melons grown in southwestern Indiana.

As of August 17, there were 141 reported infections, 31 hospitalizations, and two deaths associated with the contaminated melons, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.

"Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by officials in local, state, and federal public health, agriculture, and regulatory agencies indicate that cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana are a likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections. Investigations are ongoing to identify the source of contaminated cantaloupes," the CDC reports in a health advisory announcement.

Salmonellosis is usually characterized by diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps developing within 12 to 72 hours of exposure. The illness is usually self-limiting, lasting 4 to 7 days without treatment other than oral rehydration. Patients with severe diarrhea may require hospitalization for monitoring and treatment to prevent dehydration or potentially fatal sepsis.

"Antibiotics, such as ampicillin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, or ciprofloxacin, are not usually necessary unless the infection spreads from the intestines," according to the CDC's Salmonella webpage.

In preliminary testing, the Salmonella serotype involved appears to be susceptible to commonly prescribed antibiotics, the agency notes.

Consumers who recently bought cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana should not eat them and should discard any remaining fruit, the CDC suggests. If the fruit does not have a sticker identifying it or the melon's origin is unknown, it is best to err on the side of caution. "When in doubt, throw it out," the agency advises.

However, there is no evidence to suggest that cantaloupe grown outside the Hoosier State is unsafe.

Washing the melon will not completely remove surface bacteria, which can be transmitted to the flesh through cutting. Discarded fruit should be placed in a sealed plastic bag inside a sealed trash can to prevent accidental exposure to people or animals, the CDC recommends.

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews reporter