The CDC has increased the case count in the Salmonella cantaloupe outbreak from 178 to 204.  The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (13), Arkansas (5), California (2), Florida (1), Georgia (4), Illinois (24), Indiana (22), Iowa (8), Kentucky (63), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (6), Minnesota (5), Mississippi (5), Missouri (13), New Jersey (2), North Carolina (5), Ohio (5), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (8), Texas (2), and Wisconsin (4).

The outbreak has landed at least 78 people in the hospital, and has caused 2 deaths.  The hospitalization rate is 52% (among the 149 people for whom such information is known).  This is a remarkably high hospitalization rate for Salmonella.  In a 2004 study, researchers determined that “Overall, 22% of infected persons were hospitalized, with the rate (47%) highest among persons aged >60 years,” among people with confirmed Salmonella.

The 2 people who died in Kentucky were likely elderly folks, who typically do suffer much more severe illnesses.  Just a couple of reasons why:

First, the aging of their gastrointestinal tracts reduces peristalsis, or the natural ability of the GI tract to propel contents through and out the system. This delayed clearance of food, and the bacteria that they contain, means longer periods of contact between the bacteria and the lining of the GI tract. This gives the bacteria more time to do their ugly job before being shed from the system. Second, the elderly, as a group, have a higher incidence of co-morbidities (i.e. other illnesses or conditions), which presents a host of medical problems and threats in the context of a severe salmonella infection.