Listeria in cantaloupe; 146 sick including 30 dead 1 miscarriage; will talk of change translate into action with meaningful verification?

For those counting – which seems like a bizarrely gruesome fetish – the final tally for the listeria-in-cantaloupe outbreak of 2011 is 146 persons sick from 28 states, including 30 dead and one miscarriage.

Far more important is – will the cantaloupe industry in Colorado and elsewhere become overtly proactive, seeking the best research on the causes, prevention, and how to translate guidelines into actual actions in the field – where contamination starts.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control today issued its final report on the Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Whole Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, Colorado—United States, 2011.

(Sidenote: In the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to Romaine lettuce served at Schnucks, CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell told The Packer yesterday the agency leaves announcements regarding names of growers and distributors to the regulatory agencies – state health departments and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But it had no problem fingering Jensen Farms? Maybe because the Food and Drug Administration named Jensen Farms on Sept. 14 it was open season after that. Maybe CDC was trying to protect other cantaloupe growers. Maybe they’d like to protect other Romaine lettuce growers? Is there a written policy on when to finger a farm? Consistency in communications helps build trust.)

From the CDC cantaloupe report:

A total of 146 persons infected with any of the four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes were reported to CDC from 28 states.

Among persons for whom information was available, reported illness onset ranged from July 31, 2011 through October 27, 2011. Ages ranged from <1 to 96 years, with a median age of 77 years. Most ill persons were over 60 years old. Fifty-eight percent of ill persons were female. Among the 144 ill persons with available information on whether they were hospitalized, 142 (99%) were hospitalized.

Thirty deaths were reported: Colorado (8), Indiana (1), Kansas (3), Louisiana (2), Maryland (1), Missouri (3), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (5), New York (2), Oklahoma (1), Texas (2), and Wyoming (1). Among persons who died, ages ranged from 48 to 96 years, with a median age of 82.5 years. In addition, one woman pregnant at the time of illness had a miscarriage.

Seven of the illnesses were related to a pregnancy; three were diagnosed in newborns and four were diagnosed in pregnant women. One miscarriage was reported.