Death toll from deadly rockmelon listeria continues to grow

Health authorities say rockmelon currently on the market is safe to eat. Source: WikiCommons

Things are going from bad to worse in Australia when it comes to the deadly listeria outbreak.

A fourth person had died as a result of eating infected rockmelon, while an additional two cases of the disease have been confirmed.

WA Today reports that there are now 17 confirmed cases of listeria in the country, with that number expected to rise. At present, Vitoria and New South Wales each have six cases. Two people died in New South Wales and two lives have also been lost in Victoria.

A further four cases have been confirmed in Queensland, while one person in Tasmania has become infected. Just last Wednesday, the New South Wales Food Authority issued an urgent statement to customers encouraging them to throw away any rockmelon they had due to contamination. By that time, it had already started to infect people.

Listeria is a life-threatening illness for certain people, particularly Baby Boomers. Those who are over the age of 70, have diabetes, cancer or even suppressed immune systems are most at risk. The majority of the people who have been infected across Australia have been aged between 60 and 90.

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In many cases, it travels around the environment without causing any harm, but it has proven to be deadly for these members of the public. Most people who have become infected ate rockmelon between January 17 and February 9. It becomes particularly hard to diagnose as people show symptoms at different times.

Victims typically show flu-like symptoms including a fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhoea. Some people show symptoms immediately, while others can take more than six weeks to appear after eating food at risk. The NSW Food Authority last week warned anyone showing symptoms to seek medical help immediately.

Rockmelons were removed from shelves on February 28, although it is feared that more people have been infected, given it can take weeks for some people to start showing signs. It is believed that as many as a third of all people to contract listeriosis die each year in Australia.

The outbreak started in Nericon, New South Wales, with the grower ceasing production immediatley after being informed that it could have been the source of the deadly virus. Authorities have assured that fruit currently on the market is safe to eat, although anyone who is unsure of the origin of their rockmelon should throw it away immediately.

The outbreak has already had an impact on the fruit industry, with many people taking to social media to say they won’t be eating melon in the near future. One person on Twitter wrote: “I wouldn’t eat rockmelon if you gave me one! The listeria scare with 4 dead will kill off demand for this fruit. I won’t touch any melons”.

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Another comment read: “All I want is to eat some rockmelon but I can’t because there’s a chance I could die,” while a third added: “Glad I didn’t buy this lately I love rockmelon”.

What do you think? Have you eaten rockmelon recently?