State and federal health officials are advising all Hoosiers to discard cantaloupes purchased from July 7 to present, following an outbreak of salmonellosis which has sickened 14 Hoosiers and approximately 150 people nationwide.
The Indiana State Department of Health is investigating farms in Southwest Indiana, as well as distributors and retailers, as potential sources of the outbreak. One farm has voluntarily agreed to do a market withdrawal and is stopping the shipment of all cantaloupes as precaution. Kentucky, which has 50 confirmed cases, is also investigating retailers and other points along the distribution chain.
“Because the investigation is ongoing and we do not have a definitive source for this outbreak, we are advising all Hoosiers to throw away any cantaloupes they’ve recently purchased as a precaution,” said State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D. “We are working with other impacted states, as well as our federal partners to locate the source as quickly as possible. We will, of course, be sharing that information as it is learned.”
Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most persons recover without treatment. However, some individuals may require hospitalization from severe diarrhea. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites. It can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to become severely ill from Salmonella infection.
“Anyone experiencing symptoms and who feels they may have eaten a contaminated cantaloupe should contact their health care provider,” said Dr. Larkin. “We are seeing cases in Indiana and our neighbor to the south, Kentucky, has seen many more cases and has experienced two deaths related to this outbreak. Health care providers are encouraged to be mindful of patients who may have symptoms consistent with salmonellosis and report all cases to the local health department.”
The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the outbreak in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Indiana State Department of Health, and affected other states, including tracing the source of the affected melons and shipments of melons that may have been contaminated.
Salmonella bacteria can be found in the intestines of several animals. Infection often results from eating raw eggs or raw poultry or cross-contamination with other food items (such as using the same cutting board for raw meats and produce). Salmonella can also be found on the skin of reptiles and other animals. Hand washing should always be encouraged after playing with pets and handling animals, especially in young children. Salmonella can occasionally be found on contaminated produce items, so all produce should be thoroughly washed and scrubbed before eating.