Making it the deadliest food-borne illness outbreak in nearly a decade, health officials are now blaming the listeria outbreak linked to tainted cantaloupes in Colorado for the deaths of as many as 16 people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 72 illness and 13 deaths have been reported so far, with three new deaths that may be connected.

The confirmed deaths are from Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. Up until this listeria outbreak, the largest and deadliest food-borne illness outbreak had been nine deaths that were linked to an outbreak of salmonella in peanuts almost three years ago. 

Although listeria generally only sickens the elderly, pregnant women and others with compromised immune systems, it's more deadly than salmonella and E. coli. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, 21 people died in an outbreak of listeria poisoning in 1998 that was traced back to contaminated hot dogs and possibly deli meats, and in 1985 listeria killed 52 people and was linked to Mexican-style soft cheese.
Because listeria's symptoms don't show up immediately, the CDC expects the number of illnesses and deaths to grow in the coming weeks. 
 

 

Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.

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