By Monica Gallegos |Staff Witer|
The listeria bacterium has become a recent fear because of reported illnesses attributed to tainted cantaloupe; however doctors in the Student Health Center are not concerned about students being contaminated.
Dr. Shan Pai, a physician at the Student Health Center, said that though the listeria outbreak has affected consumers of Jensen cantaloupes, he is not concerned with it affecting California.
“The Public Health Policy in California has very aggressive management, so I’m not too concerned about (Listeria) affecting California residents,” said Pai.
Though the source of the Jensen cantaloupe contamination is still under investigation, it is already the third deadliest food-borne outbreak according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The top two deadliest outbreaks also involved listeria.
According to International Business Times the contaminated cantaloupes were produced at Jensen Farms in Colorado and were shipped to 24 different states in July. The first listeria-related illness was reported on July 31, Jensen Farms recalled their shipment Sept. 14.
The CDC reported on Wednesday that the death toll has risen to 18 and over 100 more have been infected. According to Fox Health Listeria-related deaths have occurred in the following states: Colo., Kan., Md., Miss., Neb., N.M., Okla. and Texas.
“Listeria is a bacterium that comes from contaminated food,” said Pai. “The contamination can come from the farm and handling food that has been outside for long periods of time and there has to be a source of the bacteria, it can’t just grow while sitting in your fridge,” he said.
“The bacteria only grows in raw food, it’s not much of a concern in cooked foods, and the food would already have to be contaminated before it is in the fridge,” he continued.
Pai also explained that there are certain people that the bacterium can be exceptionally harmful to.
“Listeria is very bad for those with low immunity, and that is the major cause of death,” said Pai. “Those such as children, elderly, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems such as transplant patients and those HIV positive,” continued Pai.
Typical symptoms of listeria include severe flu-like symptoms such as headaches, body aches and nausea according to Pai.
“The recent breakout has been from cantaloupes and lettuce, however in the past listeria has also been found in meat,” said Pai.
Though there haven’t been any deaths related to listeria and only one reported illness in California, precaution was encouraged at the recent L.A. County Fair.
“There was concern in the L.A. County Fair, telling people who had fresh fruit that it was better to dump it than get sick,” said Pai.
Even though professionals have not shown much of a concern about listeria in California, some students already have been taking steps to stay healthy.
“I’m just going to stop eating cantaloupes completely now, even though I don’t have a weak immune system, I just don’t want to get sick,” said Jorge Mejia.
Pai says that the only way to prevent further illnesses is to be cautious and to practice proper hygiene.
“Now that there’s an outbreak, we have to be very cautious,” said Pai. “Just be very cautious of fresh fruit, I would suggest avoiding cantaloupes completely until this outbreak is over, just to be sure,” continued Pai.