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As salmonella outbreak expands, CDC advises against eating pre-cut cantaloupe if brand is unknown

By Katherine Dillinger, CNN

(CNN) — Cantaloupes that are contaminated with salmonella continue to make people sick across the country, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Thursday.

Several varieties of whole and pre-cut cantaloupe products have been recalled – including those sold at retail chains such as Kwik Trip, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts Farmers Market and Aldi – amid an ongoing outbreak of illness that now counts at least 117 cases in 34 states. More than 60 people have been hospitalized, and two deaths have been reported in Minnesota.

“CDC is concerned about this outbreak because the illnesses are severe,” the agency said in a food safety alert, adding that the list of people with illnesses includes 14 who lived in long-term care facilities and seven children in day care centers. “Do not eat pre-cut cantaloupes if you don’t know whether Malichita or Rudy brand cantaloupes were used. … This includes cantaloupe chunks and fruit mixes with cantaloupes at restaurants and grocery stores.”

Anyone who has recalled fruit products at home should throw them away or return them to the store where you bought them, the CDC said. Make sure you wash any items or surfaces that have come into contact with the fruit using hot, soapy water. A dishwasher will also help get rid of the bacteria.

The CDC is also urging businesses not to sell the contaminated fruit and to wash and sanitize items that have come into contact with it.

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever. Symptoms typically start six hours to six days after someone swallows the bacteria.

Get medical care right away if you think you have eaten some of this fruit and have a fever higher than 102, diarrhea that won’t go away, bloody diarrhea, vomiting that won’t stop or dehydration.

Anyone can get sick with salmonella, but some people are more vulnerable to severe symptoms, including the elderly, pregnant people, children and those with underlying illnesses that weaken the immune system.

Salmonella infections are common. The bacteria causes about 1.35 million human infections and 26,5000 hospitalizations in the US every year, according to the CDC.

Such infections are also costly. Foodborne salmonella infections cost the US $4.1 billion annually, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

The CDC says it will continue to investigate the outbreak to identify any other cantaloupe or cut fruit products that may be contaminated. Health officials in Canada are also investigating because there are some illnesses in that country, as well.

CNN’s Jen Christensen contributed to this report.

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