You really don't want "cantaloupe" written down as the cause of your demise on your death certificate.
And while the chances of dying of Listeria are still quite small for most people, there are a few things you should know, and a few habits you would be smart to start building into your kitchen and bathroom routines.
On average, about 800 cases of Listeria infection are diagnosed every year and there are usually a handful of outbreaks of Listeria-associated illness from food. About 1,600 people become seriously ill every year, and of these cases, about 16% die.
Listeria (Listeria monocytogenes) is a bacterium that resists extreme hot and cold, and it's infectious to humans, especially to newborns, those who are pregnant or have weakened immune systems, and older people.
Cantaloupe and other fruits get infected by listeria when soil or water permeates their porous skin. Any bacteria on the outside of the skin can be brought to the fruit itself when sliced or handled. But any raw food or unpasteurized fluid contaminated with animal or human waste can be a culprit.
Although the actual incubation time is still unknown, it seems it can take up to two months to see symptoms which can include nausea, muscle aches, fever and diarrhea. Some people evidently never even know they have it. Typically the disease takes about seven days to clear. Severe cases usually appear only in the immune-compromised, and can lead to bad headaches, meningitis, convulsions and death. Treatment is usually intravenous antibiotics, either ampicillin or Bactrim.
Honestly, your risk of health problems is greater if you avoid fruits and vegetables like the plague. You need them. But there are a few things you can do to further reduce your chance of disease. Your best bet is to:
- Wash the outside of fruit with soap and water before eating or slicing it.
- Wash vegetables you're going to eat raw.
- Wash your hands well, especially after going to the bathroom and before preparing food.
- If you've eaten a recalled food potentially contaminated with Listeria, and you're in a high risk group, call your physician right away.
And please add your questions and comments, or email me any time!