Montezuma County Health officials reported the second confirmed death from listeria this fall.
One Montezuma County resident died in September from the disease and a second in October, according to Kate OBrien, a registered nurse with the Montezuma County Health Department.
The health department is not releasing details surrounding the deaths, but both cases were elderly patients, and are not believed to be connected to a recent outbreak of listeria stemming from cantaloupes from a Colorado farm, OBrien said.
The disease is suspected in a third death of a Montezuma County resident, but that death is currently unconfirmed, according to the La Plata County Coroners office, which handled the case.
Listeria is a foodborne bacteria rarely found in raw produce, processed lunch meats, hot dogs, smoked fish, raw milk and soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.
While most people are able to fight off the disease, individuals with weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, the elderly and newborns are vulnerable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
A multi-state outbreak was reported earlier this fall stemming from Rocky Ford brand cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Colorado.
As of last week, 133 infections from the outbreak were reported, with 28 deaths. Most cases were in Colorado.
The CDC says melons not from Jensen Farms are safe to eat and recommends consumers and food handlers wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling any whole melon, such as cantaloupe, watermelon or honeydew.
Scrubbing the surface melons, such as cantaloupes, with a clean produce brush under running water is also recommended, as well as drying them with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting. The scrub brush should be sanitized after each use, to avoid transferring bacteria between melons.
It is recommended that cut melons be refrigerated at 40 degrees or less for no more than seven days. Melons left at room temperature for more than four hours should be discarded.
Meats should be refrigerated at similar temperatures and should not make contact with other foods unless fully cooked. Keeping refrigerators and kitchen surfaces clean and sanitized can also reduce risk.
Symptoms of listeria vary for each patient, but can include fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Symptoms can also include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions.
Pregnant women can experience mild flu-like symptoms.
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