Steamboat Springs Public health officials confirmed there have been no diagnosed cases of listeriosis, the illness related to contaminated cantaloupes, in Routt County. But that doesn’t mean no one has been touched by the potentially deadly ailment.
“We’ve had no confirmed cases,” the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurses Association’s Janice Poirot said Thursday. “But that can be just the tip of the iceberg. Many people experience only mild gastrointestinal distress.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers Sept. 14 not to eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes shipped by Jensen Farms because the melons had the potential to be contaminated with the bacteria listeria. Local grocery store chains removed the cantaloupes from shelves.
Dr. David Williams, of Steamboat Medical Group, said he has seen two patients who were concerned they might have listeriosis.
“Neither had symptoms that were very suspicious,” he said.
Kelli McGannon, a spokeswoman for King Soopers, said her company removed the questionable melons from its shelves, including the City Market store in Central Park Plaza, by Sept. 8.
“It wasn’t just here,” McGannon said. “They were sold across the country.”
McGannon said her company took steps to contact its customers, including those in Steamboat Springs, who had purchased Jensen Farms cantaloupes between July 29 and Sept. 10.
By researching shopping records for City Market value cards, they were able to send a taped telephone message to those customers warning them about the potential risk. In addition, a notice was printed on customers’ next two grocery receipts.
Safeway officials also issued a press release Sept. 14 saying possibly contaminated melons had been removed from shelves in Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and two cities in New Mexico. However, requests for comments specific to the Steamboat Springs Safeway were not answered Thursday.
The most current update on the listeriosis outbreak from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday reported that 72 cases of listeriosis in 18 states have been confirmed including 15 in Colorado. Thirteen deaths, including two in Colorado, have been attributed to the food-borne illness.
The CDC recommends that persons at high risk for listeriosis, including older adults, persons with weakened immune systems and pregnant women, be particularly careful with cantaloupes. Those individuals are most at risk for the potentially fatal consequences of listeriosis. A person with listeriosis usually will experience fever and muscle aches, according to the FDA. Anyone concerned they might have contracted the malady should consult a doctor.
McGannon said her company is selling cantaloupes in Colorado from other suppliers, primarily in California. Health organizations recommend thoroughly washing the skins of cantaloupes before consuming the melons.
“It’s a good practice for food safety to wash and refrigerate all produce before eating it,” McGannon said. “I’m a little embarrassed to say I didn’t fully understand the need to wash cantaloupes before this.”
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com