WHO note on Aust listeria-tainted melons


Melons contaminated with lethal listeriosis bacteria were exported to at least nine countries from Australia where an outbreak has killed six people and caused an abortion, says the World Health Organization.

Bergmelons or cantaloupes were sent to Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and may also have gone to Seychelles, said a WHO statement on Monday.

Between 17 January and 6 April, Australia reported 19 confirmed and a likely case of listeriosis, all of which were hospitalized. Six dead.

The Listeria monocytogenes bacterium has a potentially long incubation period, usually one or two weeks, but possibly up to 90 days, so several cases can be reported, WHO said.

"Cases in the affected countries still need to be identified," said it.

The Australian Melon Producer, which the WHO did not name but called locally as Rombola Family Farms, revoked the fruit on February 27th.

On March 2, the Australian authorities discovered that the company's melons had been exported and sent detailed messages through the International Food Safety Authority Network to the countries concerned.

"It is assumed that the cause of the outbreak was a combination of environmental conditions and weather that polluted the surface of the fruit, with low levels of bacteria that persist after washing," said WHO.

"The farmer continues to work closely with the relevant authorities and has returned to deliver rock melons (underneath I started April 2) after testing the cleared property."

Listeriosis can come in a mild form, which causes diarrhea and fever in healthy people within a few days.

But it also has a serious form that can cause sepsis and meningitis among several high risk people, such as pregnant women, infants, old people and people with cancer, aids or organ transplants.

The serious form has a mortality rate of 20-30%.

As well as unwashed fruits contain high-risk foods milk products made from unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses, delicacies, ice, raw seafood, crustaceans and shellfish.

A separate list outbreak in South Africa killed at least 180 people in previous years, triggering a complaint against South African food manufacturer Tiger Brands.



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