Victorian becomes third person to die in rockmelon listeria outbreak

Authorities urge people to throw away any rockmelon purchased before Wednesday

Rock melons, also known as cantaloupes.

They are spread nationally from Victoria to Tasmania.

Australian authorities on Sunday said they were checking whether rockmelons had been exported from a farm where fruit contaminated with listeria has been found to have killed three people and caused illness in 12 others.

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

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said all of the 15 cases have involved elderly people.

The 15 diagnosed with the infection had all consumed rockmelon, also known as cantaloupe, before falling ill.

Ms Dianne Overfull, industry development manager for the Australian Melon Association, told Reuters by text message that the grower had issued a trade level recall, meaning that its produce should not be on sale anywhere, either inside or outside the country.

They were grown in New South Wales in the east of Australia, the state's food authority confirmed via its website.

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Rockmelons have been withdrawn from supermarket shelves across Australia following the outbreak, which began in January, the BBC reported.

"People vulnerable to listeriosis should discard any rockmelon in their home that was purchased before 1 March", Dr Sheppeard said.

The grower has ceased trading in melons and is now under investigation.

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

NSW Health yesterday afternoon confirmed five more people had been struck down with the illness after eating the contaminated fruit.

The outbreak has been traced to a farm at Nericon, near Griffith in the Riverina in NSW.

Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and sometimes diarrhoea and can often take a few days or as long as six weeks to appear.

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

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