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Canadian patients in cantaloupe Salmonella outbreak more than double; one dead

The Canadian Salmonella outbreak from cantaloupe is quickly catching up with the patient count in the United States related outbreak.

Both Countries have reported fatalities, with one dead in Canada and two dead in the United States. The implicated cantaloupe was imported to both countries from Mexico.

In Canada, as of Nov. 24 there have been 63 laboratory-confirmed patients, up from the 26 patients in an outbreak notice posted Nov. 22 by the Public Health Agency of Canada. In Canada 17 patients have been so sick they required hospitalization. The sick people in both countries range in age from less than 1 to 100 years old.  

There are patients in six Canadian provinces. People became ill between mid-October and mid-November. Health officials expect more patients to be identified because of the time it takes between when people become sick and when their test results are passed on to federal officials, which can take four weeks or more

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued several recall warnings beginning on Nov. 1 and running through Nov. 17 for Malichita brand cantaloupes sold between Oct. 11 and Nov. 14, 2023.

 On November 24, 2023, CFIA updated the food recall warning to also include Rudy brand cantaloupes sold between Oct. 10 and Nov. 24, 2023. Additional secondary recalls have been issued for products that were made using recalled cantaloupes and for produce items that were processed alongside recalled cantaloupes. 

Through the CFIA investigation the outbreak strains of Salmonella that made people sick were found in samples of the recalled Malichita brand cantaloupe.

As of Nov. 24, 99 people in the United States had been confirmed infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Sundsvall. That is an increase of 56 since the initial outbreak notice was issued Nov. 17 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two people have died. Of 77 people with information available, 45 have been hospitalized. Sick people are spread across 32 states. 

Additional Salmonella infections are under investigation in both countries and more illnesses associated with the outbreaks are expected to be confirmed. 

According to the CDC in the United States there are likely many more sick people than the current patient count because people frequently do not seek medical attention if symptoms are mild. Also, unless specific testing is done, Salmonella infections are often misdiagnosed as other illnesses. It can take a month or more for sick people to be confirmed as part of an outbreak.

Public health officials are interviewing sick people about the foods they ate during the days before becoming ill. Of 33 interviewed so far in the United States, 29 have reported eating cantaloupe.

Lab tests have shown certain cantaloupe to be contaminated with Salmonella. There are recalls in the United States and Canada for certain brands of whole cantaloupe and freshcut cantaloupe products. Food safety experts say washing cantaloupe does not remove pathogens because of the rough rind. Also, bacteria on the outside of the fruit can be dragged into the flesh during cutting.

In the United States recalls so far are:

Whole cantaloupes

Might have a sticker that says “Malichita” or “Rudy,” with the number “4050”, and “Product of Mexico/produit du Mexique”

See Trufresh recall and Crown Jewels recall for more details

Vinyard brand pre-cut cantaloupes

Includes cantaloupe cubes, melon medleys, and fruit medleys

Sold in Oklahoma stores between October 30 and November 10, 2023

Most have a yellow label with “Vinyard,” and some have a red label with “Fresh”

See recall notice  for product photos and more details

ALDI whole cantaloupe and pre-cut fruit products

Includes whole cantaloupes, cantaloupe chunks in clamshell packaging, and pineapple spears in clamshell packaging

Best-by dates between October 27 and October 31, 2023

Sold in ALDI stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin

See recall notice for more details

Freshness Guaranteed brand and RaceTrac brand pre-cut cantaloupes

Includes cantaloupe chunks, seasonal blend, melon mixes, and fruit mixes

Packed in clear square or round plastic containers

Best-by dates between November 7 to November 12, 2023

Sold in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia

See recall notice  for more details

About Salmonella infections Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any recalled cantaloupe and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. 

Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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