Third person dies in rockmelons listeria outbreak


A THIRD person has died from listeria linked to a national rockmelon outbreak sparking further warnings to steer clear of the fruit.

NSW Health this afternoon confirmed five more people had been struck down with listeria after the initial ten cases.

Fifteen cases have now been linked to the outbreak, including three deaths.

NSW Health communicable diseases director Dr Vicky Sheppeard said four of the additional cases were from Victoria and one was from Tasmania.

The latest victims recorded onset of the illness in the week after the initial cases, most recently on 22 February.

“All 15 cases are elderly people, and most of them have significant underlying health conditions,” Dr Sheppeard said. “Six of these cases, including two of the people who died, are from NSW.”

Dr Sheppeard confirmed 13 of the 15 people had consumed rockmelon before the onset of their illness.

Affected fruit has been withdrawn from sale. Picture: Jim Trifyllis

Affected fruit has been withdrawn from sale. Picture: Jim TrifyllisSource:News Corp Australia

“People vulnerable to listeriosis should discard any rockmelons purchased before 1 March,” she warned.

News of the third death comes amid crisis talks in the melon industry, which is reviewing how it packs its fruit after the deadly outbreak.

The NSW Food Authority has advised the outbreak has been linked to one grower at Nericon in central-western NSW.

The company in central-western NSW voluntarily ceased production last Friday, shortly after being notified of a potential link to illness, the NSW Food Authority said.

Affected fruit has been removed from supermarkets, but people may already have infected rockmelons in their homes and are being urged not to eat the fruit.

Listeria is particularly dangerous to pregnant women, with the Victorian Health Department warning them to avoid eating rockmelon if they are unsure of its origin.

The NSW Food Authority has warned consumers most vulnerable to Listeria infection — such as older people and those with weakened immune systems due to illness or pregnancy — to avoid the fruit if they haven’t checked its source, and throw it out if they already have rockmelon at home. But authorities have withdrawn the affected melons from sale and distribution.

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