What You Need to Know About Listeria Outbreak

Listeria has come into our lives. The serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes is to blame for the deaths of at least 23 people across 10 states, and sickened 116 people in 25 states -- making this case the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in the United States in more than a quarter century.

Here is what you need to know about Listeriosis:

Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Holly, CO, was linked to the outbreak, but the fruits from that farm should be off store shelves by now. How to safely consume a melon.

Health officials warn that the death toll may still rise, since symptoms can take up to two months to appear.

Five people each have died in New Mexico and Colorado from eating the tainted fruit, along with two people each in Kansas, Texas and now Louisiana. One has died in Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma and Wyoming. One pregnant woman had a miscarriage due to the illness. Cases have also been reported in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Related: E. Coli: 5 Things to Know, Including How It's Spread, Treated

Symptoms, signs and treatment to protect yourself :

  • The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems
  • Symptoms include fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. Pregnant women can experience only a mild, flu-like illness, but infections can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
  • Reducing your risk of contracting Listeria is similar to those steps you would take to prevent salmonella: Rinse raw produce thoroughly, scrubbing when necessary; dry produce with a clean cloth; separate uncooked meats and poultry from vegetables, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods; wash hands, knives, counter tops, and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods; keep your refrigerator at 40°F or lower and the freezer 0°F or lower; clean up all spills in your refrigerator right away, especially juices from hot dog and lunch meat packages, raw meat, and raw poultry; cook meat and poultry thoroughly; use precooked or ready-to-eat foods as soon as you can, don't keep beyond the use-by date.
  • Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics.
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