A total of 20 states have been affected by the outbreak, FDA reports. Illnesses by state are as follows: Alabama (7), Arkansas (3), California, (2), Georgia (1), Illinois (17), Indiana (13), Iowa (7), Kentucky (50), Michigan (6), Minnesota (3), Missouri (9), Mississippi (2), New Jersey (1), North Carolina (3), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (6), Texas (1) and Wisconsin (2).
Illnesses began in early July, with new cases still likely to be reported in the coming weeks.
The 22 percent victim hospitalization rate (31 out of 141) is unusually high for Salmonella. The CDC estimates that of the over 1 million people sickened by Salmonella in the U.S. each year, about 1.9 percent are hospitalized.
“FDA officials are actively investigating potential sources of the outbreak, and will continue to update the public as more specific information becomes available,” said FDA in a statement Friday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also collaborating with state health departments to investigate the outbreak, said CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell.
A state laboratory in Kentucky genetically matched Salmonella found in cantaloupes from a southern Indiana farm to cases of Salmonella infection in Kentucky.
Kentucky health department spokeswoman Beth Fisher said that public health officials are not yet ready to name the farm, but customers should avoid cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana. A farm under suspicion of being the source has voluntarily stopped shipping out cantaloupes.
In a statement released following the news of the outbreak, the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board reminded consumers that cantaloupes grown in California have never been associated with a foodborne illness outbreak, and that Californian growers have a track record of strengthening food safety standards over the past 20 years. Those safety standards now include mandatory government inspections of farms and packing facilities, as well as traceback measures in cases of recalls.
“It is very important that consumers understand the commitment to food safety the vast majority of cantaloupe producers have and that the current outbreak is the result of one individual operation that did not follow these well-established safety practices for packing cantaloupe,” the statement read.
“However,” it went on, “more concerted efforts must be made by the produce industry and our government agencies to find these bad actors in order to protect consumers as well as the people who rely on the cantaloupe industry for their livelihood.”
This outbreak comes one year after Listeria-contaminated cantaloupes grown at Colorado’s Jensen Farms killed at least 33 and sickened 147, becoming one of the deadliest foodborne illness outbreaks in U.S. history.
Approximately 2,400 acres of Indiana’s 15 million acres of farmland are dedicated to growing cantaloupes, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service. The state accounts for about 1 percent of U.S. cantaloupe production.
What are the Symptoms of Salmonellosis?
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.
However, in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
Who is at Risk?
Children are the most likely to get salmonellosis. The rate of diagnosed infections in children less than five years old is higher than the rate in all other persons. Young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are the most likely to have severe infections. It is estimated that approximately 400 persons die each year with acute salmonellosis.