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Officials believe up to 16 people have died by eating listeria tainted cantaloupes from Colorado.According to The Associated Press, 72 people are reported ill and 13 deaths are confirmed, while state and local officials investigate three additional fatalities.
This death toll surpasses the salmonella outbreak three years ago when nine people died from eating infected peanuts.
The confirmed deaths are from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Maryland, and Oklahoma.
Though less well know, listeria is more deadly than salmonella and E. coli. The last large listeria outbreak, carried by Mexican-style soft cheese, killed 52 people in 1985.
The centre For Disease Control believes the number of deaths and illnesses will grow in the coming days as listeria incubation could take weeks.
The tainted cantaloupes came from Jensen Farms in Holly, Colo. and were recalled earlier this month.
Listeria is generally harmless to the young and healthy but can kill the elderly and those with poor immune systems. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches and often gastrointestinal symptoms.
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