Listeria outbreak: Three Australians die after eating contaminated melon

Listeriosis begins with flu-like symptoms including chills fever and muscle aches

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources told Reuters via e-mail that it was investigating whether any rock melons, also called cantaloupes, had been exported.

They are spread nationally from Victoria to Tasmania.

Three Australians have died after eating melon contaminated with listeria.

Typically around one third of cases die, a NSW Health spokesperson said.

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

All these people had consumed rockmelon, also known as cantaloupe, before falling ill.

A total of 15 elderly people have now been infected in the outbreak, which is being linked to a melon-grower in the state of New South Wales.

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The public has been assured that all contaminated melons have now been taken off supermarket shelves. Its cases usually involve unpasteurised milk or dairy products, such as camembert and brie.

"People vulnerable to listeriosis should discard any rockmelon purchased before 1 March". The grower has not supplied fruit since last Friday, and has started a voluntary trade level recall of any fruit that may still be in the market.

12 others are ill after an outbreak of listeria, and authorities are expecting more cases. Six of these cases, including two of the people who died, are from NSW. The outbreak has been traced to a farm at Nericon, near Griffith in New South Wales.

Dr Sutton said listeria infection was "particularly dangerous" for pregnant women, their unborn babies and elderly people.

Brett Sutton, Victoria's deputy chief health officer, said the infection began with flu-like symptoms such as a fever, chills and nausea.

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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