An elderly Baton Rouge woman died this weekend after contracting listeria, according to Dr. Raoult Ratard, state epidemiologist with the Department of Heath and Hospitals.
Epidemiologists are investigating whether tainted cantaloupe linked to more than 80 illnesses and as many as 17 deaths in 19 states is connected to the woman’s death, department spokeswoman Lisa Faust said Sunday.
Ratard said Monday the woman ate cantaloupe but medical officials have no idea if the woman ate the tainted cantaloupe or if there is a connection.
Cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Colorado has been linked to the deaths and illnesses throughout the country.
Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said Friday that Jensen Farms had added Louisiana to its recall list for cantaloupes shipped between July 29 and Sept. 10.
Investigators will try to learn whether the listeria case in Louisiana is the same strain found in Colorado cantaloupe recalled because of the bacteria, Ratard said.
It will take at least a week to grow and test the bacteria and the tests may be inconclusive, Ratard said.
The fatal infection is the only listeria case reported since July in Louisiana, Ratard said.
“By now any (recalled) cantaloupe left would be rotten. So it looks like the danger from cantaloupe is very low now,” Ratard said. “But you never know. Something else may come up.”
Listeria is common in soil and water, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The CDC website said it can be found in uncooked meats and vegetables, unpasteurized milk and cheese made from unpasteurized milk, and processed meats, smoked seafood and soft cheeses.
And because it can take a month or more for symptoms to show up, people who ate contaminated cantaloupe before the recall could still get sick.
Symptoms can vary widely.
The CDC said older adults and people with immune system disorders are most likely to develop blood poisoning and meningitis, which can cause headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions.
Pregnant women may have a mild, flu-like illness followed by a miscarriage or a life-threatening illness in the newborn.
People whose immune systems are in good shape may not feel sick or might get high fever and muscle aches, with diarrhea, nausea or vomiting sometimes coming first.
Almost everyone diagnosed with listeria has bacteria that has spread beyond the stomach and intestines, according to the CDC website.