Papaya farm linked to deadly outbreak; victim count hits 109

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Officials have barred all papayas from a farm in Mexico from import to the U.S. as well as warning the public to not eat Caribeña brand maradol papayas from Mexico after tracing a deadly Salmonella outbreak to the fruit.

To view the full sized map on the CDC website, please click on the image.

The number of victims has more than doubled in the past two weeks, increasing from 47 confirmed cases in a dozen states to 109 confirmed cases across 16 states. One victim in New York died and 35 people have had symptoms so severe that they required hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Papayas from the Carica de Campeche farm tested positive for Salmonella Kiambu, Salmonella Thompson, Salmonella Agona, Salmonella Senftenberg, and Salmonella Gaminara,” according to an update posted this morning by the Food and Drug Administration.

CDC announced it has added illnesses of Salmonella Thompson to this outbreak investigation because of epidemiological and laboratory evidence. Whole genome sequencing is pending for these samples. The Carica de Campeche farm has been added to Import Alert 99-35.”

Caribeña brand maradol papayas distributed in the United States by Grande Produce of San Juan, TX, had already been linked to a Salmonella Kiambu outbreak after Maryland officials began investigating a cluster of illnesses in their state.

Additional brands from other distributors are also now suspected of being contaminated with Salmonella bacteria and federal officials are urging consumers to throw out any papaya they have in their homes unless then can determine for sure where it was grown.

“CDC recommends that consumers not eat, restaurants not serve, and retailers not sell Maradol papayas from Mexico until we learn more,” according to an update posted on the CDC website today. “If you aren’t sure if the papaya you bought is a Maradol papaya from Mexico, you can ask the place of purchase. Restaurants and retailers can ask their supplier.

“When in doubt, don’t eat, sell, or serve them and throw them out. Wash and sanitize countertops as well as drawers or shelves in refrigerators where papayas were stored.”

Public health officials have not yet been able to interview all of the confirmed outbreak victims.

However, for those with information available, illnesses started on dates ranging from May 17 to July 22. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 95, with a median age of 36. Among 74 people with available information, 50, or 68 percent, are of Hispanic ethnicity. Among 76 people with available information, 35 of them, or 46 percent, have been hospitalized.

Illnesses that started after July 10 might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when health care providers report the illness to public health authorities. This takes an average of two to four weeks, according to the CDC.

The Caribeña brand maradol papayas distributed by Grande Produce have been recalled by that company, but other brands may also originate from the Carica de Campeche farm. The Caribeña brand can be identified by a red, green and yellow sticker shown here. If anyone has these papayas in their home, they should dispose of them immediately, according to the FDA.

Editor’s note: Because of the popularity of papayas in Mexican and Hispanic cuisine, public health officials say people in those groups are at particular risk during the current outbreak. To access information the CDC has posted in Spanish, click here.

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