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Australia listeria outbreak: 17 cases and 4 deaths

In a follow-up on the listeriosis outbreak in Australia linked to tainted rockmelon, health officials report two additional cases and one death.

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The number of people affected by the national listeria outbreak has risen to 17 with two more interstate cases linked to contaminated rockmelon, a man from Victoria and a woman from Queensland.

NSW and Victoria have both recorded six cases, there have been four cases in QLD and one in Tasmania. There have been two deaths in NSW and two in Victoria.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said both new cases became ill before the contaminated rockmelons were recalled from market on 28 February.

“Listeriosis has a long incubation period – up to 70 days. Therefore there are multiple foods consumed and retailers used by the cases, which need to be thoroughly investigated and the findings matched to specialist laboratory test results, to determine the source,” Dr Sheppeard said.

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“NSW Health responded immediately with the NSW Food Authority and other state health departments to pinpoint the cause and advise vulnerable groups how to minimise their risk.

“All state and national guidelines have been followed and public warnings issued here and interstate when the food source was identified.”

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Listeria is found widely in the environment and rarely causes serious illness in the general population, but for vulnerable people, such as those who are over 70, pregnant, or have diabetes or suppressed immune systems, it can be extremely serious or even life threatening.

“Typically around one third of people who fall ill with listeriosis die every year. Most of the cases are never related to an outbreak like this one we’re seeing with the rockmelon contamination,” Dr Sheppeard said.