An outbreak of salmonella infections across 20 states has resulted in two deaths and sickened 141 people in recent weeks, state and federal authorities said.

The source of the outbreak appears to be cantaloupes from a farm in southwestern Indiana, the authorities said. They urged consumers who have purchased melons grown in that area to discard them.

The outbreak has been most severe in Kentucky, where 50 people have been infected and the two deaths occurred.

People infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours after exposure, according to a statement on Friday from the federal Food and Drug Administration’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network. Most people recover within a week.

However, in some cases the diarrhea is severe and the infection can spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other parts of the body. If not treated quickly, it can lead to death.

Each year, about 400 people in the United States die from acute salmonellosis, according to the F.D.A.

The earliest known illness in the current outbreak occurred on July 7, and those infected range in age from under 1 to 92, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is working with the state and local authorities to stem the outbreak.

Health officials interviewed 24 people stricken with salmonella since the start of the outbreak, and 18 of them reported eating cantaloupe in the last week, the C.D.C. said.

In Kentucky, health officials isolated a strain of salmonella from two cantaloupes taken from a local retail outlet and traced them back to a farm in Indiana.

“As a result of the initial investigations by the state health departments in Indiana and Kentucky, a farm in southwestern Indiana has contacted its distributors, which reach outside Indiana into other states, and is withdrawing its cantaloupe from the marketplace,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement. “The farm has agreed to cease distributing cantaloupes for the rest of the growing season.”

Last year, a multistate outbreak of listeriosis that killed 29 people was linked to cantaloupes from a farm in Colorado.

The C.D.C. said there was no connection between that outbreak and the current salmonella infections.

Health officials urged consumers to ask where cantaloupes being sold at local stores were grown and avoid any from southwestern Indiana. “Based on the available information,” the C.D.C. said, “consumers can continue to purchase and eat cantaloupes that did not originate in southwestern Indiana.”

Source: The NY Times


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