Two deaths and multiple cases of illness across 20 states have been linked to cantaloupes contaminated with salmonella, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
State and federal health officials are advising consumers to discard all cantaloupes from southwestern Indiana, as tests have found evidence of the same strain of salmonella bacteria associated with a multi-state outbreak that health officials say is still ongoing.
For more on CNN's investigation of September's historic and deadly Listeria outbreak watch "CNN Presents" this Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET on CNN.
On a sunny morning early last September, Susanna Gaxiola fed her husband a healthy breakfast of fresh cantaloupe in their Albuquerque, New Mexico, home. Her husband, Rene, a Pentecostal pastor and minister, had been fighting a rare blood cancer and he was eating fresh cantaloupe and other fruit daily.
Around the same time, Paul Schwarz ate fresh cantaloupe in his home in Independence, Missouri. Though 92 years old, Schwarz was still active and healthy, and ate fresh fruit often. And Dr. Mike Hauser, a podiatrist, also ate fresh cantaloupe with his family in Monument, Colorado. Hauser, 68, had been fighting myeloma, a blood cancer, but he was recovering well, even planning a bow-hunting trip in the mountains.
Within days or weeks of eating the cantaloupe, all three men became horribly sick, and all eventually died painful deaths. Their deaths were directly caused by the cantaloupe, which was contaminated with the deadly bacteria Listeria, according to health officials.
Unsanitary conditions at a Colorado cantaloupe farm's packing facility are a possible contributing cause of one of the nation's worst outbreaks of listeria contamination in food, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a Centers for Disease Control official said it is too early to declare the outbreak over, but the number of new cases appeared to be diminishing.
"The peak in illnesses appears to have occurred from late August until the middle of September," said Dr. Barbara Mahon of the CDC, who added that additional monitoring will be needed for at least another two weeks.
The FDA said it was unable to pinpoint the definitive cause of the outbreak, which has been linked to 25 deaths so far.
The number of deaths linked to cantaloupes contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria has risen to 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
At least 109 cases of listeria have been reported in 24 states, the agency said. That's nine more cases and four more states than it reported Tuesday. The number of deaths has risen by three.
Health officials have said the number of cases could continue to grow, citing reporting lags and the fact the disease can develop slowly in some people, taking up to two months.
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