Listeria Symptoms Often Appear Months Later

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Health officials say more than 1 million cantaloupes are connected to the listeria outbreak.

So far, 72 cases have been reported with at least 16 deaths.

The outbreak has been called the deadliest food crisis in America in more than 10 years.

The cantaloupes responsible for the deadly listeria outbreak have been removed from grocery store shelves.

However, health officials warn that the threat to the American public has not passed. It can take up to two months for symptoms of listeria poisoning to develop.

"If you ingest a small number of listeria, they don't make you sick right away. There is no way if knowing that if we have swallowed the listeria, and it's kind of smoldering around in our intestinal tracts - there's no way to know that," explained Dr. William Schaffner of the Vanderbilt Medical Center.

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Because people may not be aware of the delayed symptoms, doctors are concerned that some won't be properly treated.

It only takes trace amounts of listeria to make someone sick.

Early symptoms include fever and muscle aches, but if the illness isn't treated properly, it can leave the individual incapacitated and unable to speak.

Pregnant women, the elderly and people with already compromised immune systems are the most at risk to contract the illness.

Antibiotics are the most common treatment for listeria poisoning.

Health officials warn that if someone is unsure whether their cantaloupes have been contaminated, it's best to throw them away.

Officials predict more cases will be recorded throughout the month of October.

--Published Sept. 30, 2011

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Lorie  Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about health and wellness. Since medicine is constantly changing, she makes sure CBN News viewers are up-to-date on what they need to know in order to live a healthy life.  Follow Lorie on Twitter @LorieCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/LorieJohnsonCBN.