Australia: Death toll rises in listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe melons

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Australia: Death toll rises in listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe melons

The death toll in an Australian listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe melons has risen to six after a New South Wales woman in her 90s died from listeriosis. 

The outbreak, which has been linked to cantaloupe melons (known locally as rockmelons) produced on a New South Wales farm, has now led to three deaths in the territory and three more in Victoria.

The total number of people affected nationwide remains at 19.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, director of communicable diseases at NSW Health, said the elderly woman had developed listeriosis before the outbreak was identified.

“There have been no new cases notified associated with the outbreak in NSW since Feb. 19 when it was first identified,” Sheppeard said.

“It is still possible that more cases will be linked to the outbreak given the incubation period for the disease is up to 70 days, however there is no ongoing risk of listeriosis from rockmelons now on sale.

“It is important to know that people fall ill with listeriosis every year but most of the cases are never related to an outbreak like we are seeing. Sadly, up to one-third of those who do contract the disease will die.”

Once the investigation identified the source of the infection – rockmelons from a single farm – these rockmelons were recalled from market.

Melon sales in Australia have reportedly plummeted following the outbreak, despite industry claims that the fruit is now safe to eat. Local media ABC News reported earlier this month that demand had fallen by 90%.

Authorities in the territory have refused to name the grower, but the industry is calling for them to be identified and explain what caused the outbreak.

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