This story has been updated to reflect the most recent information released by the Georgia Department of Public Health Friday concerning the five individuals in Georgia.
Consumers shouldn’t eat pre-cut cantaloupe if they don’t know the source, U.S. health officials said Thursday, as the number of illnesses and recalls tied to a deadly salmonella outbreak grows.
At least 117 people in 34 U.S. states have been sickened by contaminated cantaloupe, including 61 who were hospitalized and two who died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Canada, another 63 illnesses, 17 hospitalizations and one death are tied to the same outbreak.
The Georgia Department of Public Health reported Friday that Georgia has five illnesses connected to the melons, in individuals ages 1 to 81.
The CDC said around the nation the illnesses are severe, with more than half of infected people hospitalized, including residents of long-term care centers and children in day care. In this outbreak, 14 sick people resided in long-term care facilities and 7 children attended childcare centers before they got sick.
According to the CDC’s website, “CDC is concerned about this outbreak because the illnesses are severe and people in long-term care facilities and childcare centers have gotten sick. Do not eat pre-cut cantaloupes if you don’t know whether Malichita or Rudy brand cantaloupes were used.”
Georgia’s cases include one individual who was hospitalized and two who sought care at an emergency room, but were not admitted to the hospital, according to the DPH. The Georgia cases have appeared around the state and are not concentrated in any one location, and none of the 5 were residents of a long-term care facility.
Recalls of whole and pre-cut cantaloupes include Aldi, RaceTrac, Kwik Trip markets, Bix Produce and distributor GHGA, which sent recalled products to Kroger, Sprouts Farmer’s Markets and Trader Joe’s stores in several states, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The whole cantaloupes that are part of the recall might have a sticker that says “Malichita” or “Rudy,” with the number “4050″, and “Product of Mexico/produit du Mexique.”
According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the fresh-cut fruit products containing recalled cantaloupe were distributed to Kroger stores in Alabama and Georgia; Sprouts stores in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina; and Trader Joe’s stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The products are packaged in clear square or round plastic containers, marked with a “sell by” date and a lot code on the label.
For more details on the recalled products, consult the FDA’s website at fda.gov.
Because of the scope of the recalls and potential uncertainty about the source of the cantaloupe, health officials warned consumers to be cautious.
“If you cannot tell if your cantaloupe, including pre-cut cantaloupe or products containing pre-cut cantaloupe is part of the recall, do not eat or use it and throw it away,” the FDA said in a statement.
The number of people sickened is likely much higher than what’s been reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to states with known illnesses, according to the CDC. It typically takes three to four weeks to determine whether a sick person is part of an outbreak.
Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps within six hours to six days after consuming contaminated food. Illnesses typically last four to seven days. Vulnerable people, including children, people older than 65 and those with weakened immune systems may develop severe illnesses from the bacteria that require medical care or hospitalization.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you call your healthcare provider if you have any of these severe Salmonella symptoms:
- Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F
- Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
- Bloody diarrhea
- So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down
- Signs of dehydration, such as: Not peeing much Dry mouth and throat Feeling dizzy when standing up
Staff writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Helena Oliviero contributed to this report. The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group.