Three Australians Die, More Sick in Listeria Outbreak Tied to Melons

Mar 07, 2018, 00:17
Three Australians Die, More Sick in Listeria Outbreak Tied to Melons

All affected products, which came from one of Australia's biggest melon producers in NSW, have been withdrawn from sale and distribution.

A third person has been killed by an Australian listeria outbreak connected to rock melons, Xinhua news agency reported.

The onset of their illness occurred the week after the initial ten cases, most recently on 22 February.

Rock melons, also known as cantaloupes.

A total of 15 elderly people have now been infected in the outbreak, which is being linked to a melon-grower in the state of New South Wales.

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"All 15 cases are elderly people, and a lot of them have significant underlying health conditions", NSW Health's communicable diseases director Dr Vicky Sheppeard said in a statement on Friday. Its cases usually involve unpasteurised milk or dairy products, such as camembert and brie.

Authorities say if people are unsure about the origin of a rockmelon, it should be disposed of in the waste bin, not into compost bins, to avoid further contamination.

Australian Melon Association's Dianne Fullelove said the grower was devastated and would need to meet the requirements set by the NSW Food Authority before resuming production.

Of the three people who have died, two were from Sydney.

The disease causes flu-like symptoms and can lead to nausea, diarrhea, infection of the blood stream and brain.

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Listeria is a bacterium which can be deadly for pregnant women, elderly people, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems.

On Friday, the NSW Food Authority (NSWFA) confirmed that it had been investigating a possible listeria outbreak linked to the melons since January.

Listeria can be spread by pets and is also found in water, soil and vegetation.

Listeria is rare in Australia but a deadly outbreak in South Africa has killed more than 170 people since January a year ago, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said last month.

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