BALTIMORE (WJZ)—The Centers for Disease Control reports 84 people have now been infected with listeria linked to cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Colorado. A Maryland family is suing the farm.
Pat Warren has the latest developments in the outbreak.
Up to now, most people may have had little or no idea what listeria is, and as in the case of an 87-year-old Maryland man, you can have it and not know it.
In August, health officials knew what Donna Wells Lloyd and her brother did not.
“When Donna called me and told me, asked me if I had heard about the listeria outbreak, first of all I thought it was wisteria. I had no idea what she was talking about,” the victim’s son recalled.
Lloyd tells WJZ she wasn’t sure either, but the Baltimore County Health Department had informed her that it was found in their 87-year-old father Clarence Wells who died Aug. 31.
“If he had known there was tainted cantaloupe, it would have been out of his diet and he would never have eaten cantaloupe again,” Lloyd said.
The family is suing the source of the contaminated melons, Jensen Farms.
“I feel badly for the families of the other victims,” said the victim’s son. “I also feel badly for the farmers that did this. I know obviously this was not their intent. It’s just a horrible situation all the way around.”
Symptoms can develop weeks or months after exposure. According to Dr. Michael Donnenberg at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, listeria is often hard to trace.
“People can remember what they ate yesterday, but it’s hard to remember what you ate two months ago,” Donnenberg said.
His family says Clarence Wells did eat cantaloupe, although they aren’t sure where it was purchased.
“There are a million and a half cantaloupes, and my father is one of the people who ate the cantaloupe and passed away. It’s just … mindboggling,” said Lloyd.
The state health department says no other cases of listeria have been reported in the state.
Jensen Farms issued a recall of Rocky-Ford brand cantaloupes on Sept. 14.