Colorado is Center of Deadly Listeria Outbreak
The Denver Post has reported that state epidemiologist Alicia Cronquist thought it slightly odd when she learned two people were sickened by listeria bacteria within days. When two more reports arrived at the state health department in late August, Cronquist figured she was dealing with an outbreak. “That was more than we would expect. That was concerning,” Cronquist told the newspaper. “Clearly, we were on high alert.” Two more cases were reported the next day and three more the next day.
This sudden uptick in reported listeria cases led Colorado scientists’ to hunt for the source of an outbreak that has now been linked to eight deaths nationwide. The frantic search, according to the Denver Post, involved two weeks of brainstorming, studying blood samples and confiscating half-eaten food from victims’ refrigerators. As the reports started coming in, the majority were from the elderly, Cronquist said. “The average age is in the 80s and they are quite ill. Their family members are at their bedside, and we are asking them to remember food that they ate a month ago. They are actually very difficult interviews.”
Each case is highly personal. One of Cronquist’s samples came from 84-year-old Herb Stevens Jr., who woke up shaking uncontrollably Aug. 22. His wife, Elaine, thought it was a cold until Aug. 24, when Herb’s temperature reached 102.7 degrees and he could not stand, The Denver Post reported. When Cronquist checked the CDC database tracking foods that listeria victims reported eating, she found that all the patients she was tracking had eaten cantaloupe.
Listeria Cantaloupe Outbreak Claims 55 Victims and 8 Deaths So Far
As of Thursday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed that at least 55 people in 14 states have been sickened from eating cantaloupes, distributed among the following states: California (1), Colorado (14), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Maryland (1), Montana (1), Nebraska (4), New Mexico (10), Oklahoma (8), Texas (9), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (1). Eight deaths have been reported: 2 in Colorado, 1 in Maryland, 4 in New Mexico, and 1 in Oklahoma.
All illnesses started on or after August 4, 2011. Listeriosis illnesses in several other states are currently being investigated by state and local health departments to determine if they are part of this outbreak.
How Were Cantaloupes Linked to the Outbreak?
Doctors and labs are required to report every case of listeria to the state health department.
In the early stages of Colorado’s investigation, county health authorities used 15-page questionnaires to interview patients and their families about what they ate and where they bought it. Epidemiologists in the victims’ home counties interviewed the patients to look for patterns while the state health department faxed and emailed a listeria alert to doctors, hospitals and labs. Scientists pulled food from patients’ homes, including typical listeria suspects like deli meats, hot dogs and dairy products.
Meanwhile, the public received the first notice of an outbreak: a warning for the elderly, the pregnant and those with compromised immune systems to avoid deli meats and unpasteurized cheese. Cantaloupe was not mentioned in the initial interviews or warnings as there has never been a cantaloupe outbreak of listeria.
As the search continued, the bacteria in patients’ blood was isolated, and state microbiologist Hugh Maguire’s labs deconstructed the DNA profiles to see whether they had listeria strains in common. Those profiles were uploaded into a CDC database of data from across the nation, and a common link—cantaloupe—soon emerged. Colorado health authorities purchased 15 cantaloupes at three grocery stores and tested the rind and flesh for listeria bacteria. They also tested victims’ leftover melon. Maguire’s lab fast-tracked the genetic matching, setting aside some of the lab’s other work.
As more patient blood samples arrived at the state lab, they fell into three distinct strains. Cantaloupe taken from patients’ refrigerators had the same strains but no sticker naming the farm. In interviews, though, patients volunteered that the cantaloupe said ‘Rocky Ford’ on it or was extra sweet.
Then, on Sept. 12, the CDC told people not to eat cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford area of southeastern Colorado.
Grocery Store’s Loyalty Card Used to Link Cantaloupe to Jensen Farms
As the food tracking continued, Tri-County Health investigators collected receipts to track what food Herb Stevens family had bought over the last month, utilizing his grocery store loyalty card information to could check purchases. By tracking the melon purchases of patients, like Herb Stevens, back to the distribution trucks, investigators from the state and the Food and Drug Administration narrowed the focus to two farms and sampled soil and machinery. Two days after warning people not to eat Rocky Ford cantaloupe, health officials announced they had pinpointed the farm.
Investigators are still trying to determine how the Jensen Farms cantaloupe became contaminated. “There is still lots to be known about this outbreak,” said Chris Urbina, executive director of the state health department. “We still have lessons to learn out of this.”
Meanwhile, Eric and Ryan Jensen of Jensen Farms expressed their regret for the harm caused on the company’s website:
We are deeply saddened to learn that cantaloupes grown on our farm have been linked to the current Listeria outbreak. Our hearts go out to those individuals and their families who have been affected by this terrible situation. We have been cooperating fully with public health officials who are trying to determine the source of the outbreak, and we will continue to do everything we can to assist them in their efforts. We hope that the investigation into the entire supply chain from farm to retail identifies the source of the contamination so that appropriate steps can be taken to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.
Where the Cantaloupes Distributed?
The contaminated cantaloupes were shipped between July 29th, 2011 and September 10th 2011, and were distributed to 17 states: IL, WY, TN, UT, TX, CO, MN, KS, NM, NC, MO, NE, OK, AZ, NJ, NY, PA. The whole cantaloupes have a green and white sticker that reads: Product of USA-Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford-Cantaloupe or a gray, yellow, and green sticker that reads: JF-Sweet Rocky Fords – Distributed by Frontera Produce, USA.
What are the Symptoms of Listeriosis?
A person with listeriosis has fever, muscle aches, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur (CDC, 2011).
Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn (CDC, 2011).
More Listeriosis Facts
Each year, an estimated 1,600 persons in the United States fall seriously ill with listeriosis (CDC, 2011). Of these, approximately 260 die. Between 1989 and 1993, the annual incidence of listeriosis decreased by 34%; from 1996 to 2006, it declined 36%. However, outbreaks continue to occur. For example, in 2002, an outbreak traced to consumption of turkey meat resulted in 54 illnesses, 8 deaths, and 3 fetal deaths across 9 different states. Further, an increasing rate of listeriosis has been reported in several European countries in recent years.
A number of groups are at higher risk for developing listeriosis, including:
- Pregnant women;
- Persons with weakened immune systems such as those resulting from organ transplants and from certain diseases, therapies, and medications;
- Persons with cancer, diabetes, alcoholism, liver or kidney disease;
- Persons with AIDS;
- Persons who take glucocorticosteroid medications; and
- The elderly.
Healthy children and adults occasionally get listeriosis, but they rarely become seriously ill. Children younger than 1 month of age and adults over the age of 60 experience the highest rates of infection. Some studies have demonstrated higher rates of infection in males, and, in the Northern hemisphere, a seasonal predominance occurring in late summer and fall.
Pregnant women are approximately 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. In fact, about one in six (17%) of listeriosis cases happen during pregnancy. In the 10- to 40-year age group, pregnant women account for 60% of cases. However, as mentioned above, pregnant women do not usually experience severe symptoms, and generally experience only a mild, flu-like illness. Instead, newborns – rather than the pregnant women themselves – suffer the most serious effects of infection in pregnancy. Approximately 50-90% of infected fetuses that are delivered immaturely do not survive. While the mortality rate is greater than 50% for fetuses infected in utero, it is only 30% for early onset neonatal sepsis, 15% for late-onset neonatal meningitis, and less than 10% in older children promptly given appropriate antimicrobial therapy.
Around 70% of nonperinatal infections occur in individuals who have hematologic malignancy, have received an organ transplant, are receiving corticosteroid treatment, or have AIDS. Individuals infected with AIDS are almost 300 times more likely to get listeriosis than people with normal immune systems.
If you Contracted Listeria, Let Simon & Luke Help You
If you or a loved one have contracted listeria after consuming cantaloupes, and have been contacted by the health department, then you are likely related to this outbreak. If so, you are entitled to significant compensation from Jensen Farms and its insurers, including payment for all of your past and future medical bills, pharmacy bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other damages.
Simon & Luke’s groundbreaking work on behalf of victims in several recent national food borne illness outbreaks (Peter Pan peanut butter, Castleberry’s chili, Nestle cookie dough, Peanut Corporation of America Peanut products, JBS Swift beef, Daniele salami, Subway sandwiches, Sangar celery, Wright County Egg / Hillandale Farms eggs, Cargill ground turkey, and Agromod papayas, to name a few) have been featured on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX and virtually all other major television networks and print media.
We have represented several victims in two recent national listeria outbreaks – those related to Chang Farms sprouts and Sangar celery.
The firm has represented over 3000 victims of food-borne outbreaks in the past four years alone, and has collected over $450,000,000 for its clients. The firm regularly publishes articles about food safety and litigation at www.myfoodpoisoninglawyer.com, which are read by viewers in over 140 countries.
The firm is currently accepting Jensen Farms cantaloupe listeria cases.
Simon & Luke is actively investigating this outbreak and represents several victims who have become ill from Listeria monocytogenes. Simon & Luke’s listeria lawyers and attorneys can help you with your Jensen Farms cantaloupe listeria outbreak, claim, lawsuit, and settlement in California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming,and all affected states.
If you have questions or information about this outbreak, please call us toll free at 1-888-335-4901 or contact us by email at email@example.com – we are here to help you.