Melon listeria claims third victim in Australia

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The Ministry of Public Health has warned against the consumption of sweet melons coming from New Zealand and Australia for potential contamination with the listeria bacteria.

Three people have died and 12 others have fallen ill in a national listeria outbreak linked to contaminated melons in Australia, health authorities have confirmed.

The most recent case was diagnosed on February 22.

Rock melons, also known as cantaloupes.

"All 15 cases are elderly people, and a lot of them have significant underlying health conditions", director of communicable diseases at New South Wales Health doctor Vicky Sheppeard said in a statement on Friday.

Rockmelons have been withdrawn from supermarket shelves across Australia following the outbreak, which began in January, the BBC reported.

"All 15 cases are elderly people, and a lot of them have significant underlying health conditions", NSW Health's communicable diseases director Dr Vicky Sheppeard said in a statement on Friday.

The suspect cantaloupes were found to have been farmed at Nericon in the eastern state of New South Wales, however all government departments contacted refused to name the company that is the focus of the health scare.

"People vulnerable to listeriosis should discard any rock melon purchased before March 1".

Listeriosis starts with flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and sometimes diarrhoea - and it can take up to six weeks for symptoms to appear.

Australian Melon Association's Dianne Fullelove said the grower was devastated and would need to meet the requirements set by the NSW Food Authority before resuming production. The bacterium may cause septicaemia (blood poisoning) and meningitis (inflammation of brain membranes).

The effects caused by Listeriosis can be deadly especially to elderly people.

Those most susceptible to the disease are elderly people, pregnant women and their fetuses and people with weakened immune systems.

Listeria is rare in Australia but a deadly outbreak in South Africa has killed more than 170 people since January previous year, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said last month.

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