Newsroom > DHHS News Release

September 23, 2011

Jeanne Atkinson, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-8287

Nebraska has First Death From Listeria Outbreak

Lincoln – The Department of Health and Human Services reports the state’s first death from listeriosis, a foodborne illness. Test results indicate that a man in his eighties from the western part of the state died earlier this month from listeriosis.

“My sympathies are with the family," said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Division of Public Health. “Analysis shows that the strains of listeria that are being investigated in Colorado match the one identified with this individual.”

The multi-state outbreak of listeriosis has been linked to Rocky Ford cantaloupe. The FDA has announced a voluntary recall of cantaloupe from Jensen Farms of Granada, Colorado.

Including this death, Nebraska has now had six confirmed cases of listeriosis, and all appear to be associated with an outbreak connected to Colorado-grown cantaloupe.

“If you believe you have cantaloupe from Jensen Farms, discard it,” Dr. Schaefer said.

The elderly can have serious consequences from listeriosis, and all of the ill adults in Nebraska are elderly, she said. All have been or are currently hospitalized.

The CDC is recommending that persons at high risk for listeriosis not eat Rocky Ford cantaloupe from Jensen Farms. Those most at risk are older adults, pregnant women, newborns and persons with weakened immune systems. Healthy children and adults rarely become seriously ill.

Listeriosis is a bacterial infection. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea.

General tips to keep food safe include:

  • Rinsing raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running tap water before eating;
  • Keeping uncooked meats separate from fruits and vegetables, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods;
  • Washing hands, knives, countertops and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods;
  • Maintaining your refrigerator at 40 degrees F. or lower; clean the inside walls and shelves with hot water and liquid soap.