Deadly salmonella outbreak linked to cantaloupe grows

Cantaloupe Recall
Cantaloupes are displayed for sale in Virginia in 2017. U.S. health officials have recalled several brands of whole and pre-cut cantaloupes as the number of people sickened by salmonella continues to increase.
J. Scott Applewhite | AP file

Consumers shouldn’t eat pre-cut cantaloupe if they don't know the source, U.S. health officials said Thursday, as the number of illnesses and recalls tied to a deadly salmonella outbreak grows.

At least 117 people in 34 U.S. states have been sickened by contaminated cantaloupe, including 61 who were hospitalized and two who died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both of those fatalities were in Minnesota.

As of Thursday, the CDC reported at least 14 confirmed infections in Minnesota, the most of any state. Wisconsin is second with 10 confirmed cases.

Another 63 illnesses, 17 hospitalizations and one death tied to the same outbreak have been reported in Canada.

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The illnesses are severe, with more than half of infected people hospitalized, including residents of long-term care centers and children in day care, the CDC said.

Previous recalls of whole and pre-cut cantaloupes have been expanded to include Kwik Trip markets, Bix Produce and distributor GHGA, which sent recalled products to Kroger, Sprouts Farmer’s Markets and Trader Joe’s stores in several states, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Because of the scope of the recalls and potential uncertainty about the source of the cantaloupe, health officials warned consumers to be cautious.

“If you cannot tell if your cantaloupe, including pre-cut cantaloupe or products containing pre-cut cantaloupe is part of the recall, do not eat or use it and throw it away,” the FDA said in a statement.

The number of people sickened is likely much higher than what’s been reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to states with known illnesses. It typically takes three to four weeks to determine whether a sick person is part of an outbreak.

Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps within six hours to six days after consuming contaminated food. Illnesses typically last four to seven days. Vulnerable people, including children, people older than 65 and those with weakened immune systems may develop severe illnesses from the bacteria that require medical care or hospitalization.

MPR News contributed to this report.