Melon
Melon Reuters

Three persons have died and 12 are seriously ill and hospitalized in Australia after they ate melon contaminated with listeria bacteria. Confirming the news, the country's food authority said more cases are expected.

The outbreak of the infection was initially spotted last month and is being linked to a cantaloupes farm in Nericon, New South Wales. Two of the deaths were reported from New South Wales, while the third one was reported on Friday from Victoria.

Pregnant women and elderly people should stay away

Health experts said listeria is a commonly found bacteria, and will not cause illness among people in normal cases. But for pregnant women, elderly people, and for those with chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer, it causes a serious threat.

"All 15 cases are elderly people, and most of them have significant underlying health conditions. Six of these cases, including two of the people who died, are from NSW. We can confirm that 13 of the 15 cases consumed rockmelon before the onset of their illness. People vulnerable to listeriosis should discard any rockmelon purchased before 1 March," said Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health.

Health authorities also informed that all contaminated fruits have been removed from supermarket shelves. They also requested pregnant women and elderly women not to consume cantaloupes for some time.

Symptoms of Listeriosis

Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by the Listeria bacteria with initial symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhoea. The symptoms may take up to six days to appear after eating the melon. The NSW warns that listeriosis is a very serious condition, and one out of three cases died due to the illness.

Apart from pre-cut melons, some other foods which cause listeriosis include pre-packed cold salads including coleslaw and fresh fruit salad, pre-cooked cold chicken, sprouted seeds, raw mushrooms, unpasteurised milk products and soft cheese.