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Health officials: Listeria killed woman at Parker hospital

8:32 PM, Sep 20, 2011   |    comments
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The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment now confirms two people, including 48-year-old Shelly Occhipinti-Krout, have died from the Listeria outbreak in Colorado.

CDPHE spokesperson Mark Salley said Tuesday there are 14 cases in Colorado, including the two deaths.

Occhipinti-Krout had been hospitalized for three weeks.

"It started with just flu-like symptoms. Then she collapsed on Aug. 27 at her house and was taken to the hospital. While she was getting a CAT scan she went into cardiac arrest. Then doctors put her into a medically induced coma," Occhipinti-Krout's daughter, Tiffany Weider, said. "I knew it was my mom, but it didn't even look like her. Everything was swollen and bruised. All of her electrolytes and vitals plummeted from the Listeria."

"I'm not a doctor. I'm not a farmer. Someone has to have answers. There's got to be answers. It's happening to other people. My mom was the best person in the world - she didn't deserve any of this," Weider said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this week that 35 people in 10 states had been sickened in the outbreak. The illnesses are in California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia. Colorado has had the most cases of any state affected by the outbreak.

The illnesses have been traced to fruit from Jensen Farms in Holly, Colo. The FDA said Monday that it had found Listeria in samples of Jensen Farms' cantaloupe taken from a Denver-area store and on samples taken from equipment and cantaloupe at the farm's packing facility. Tests confirmed that the samples matched the strain of the disease found in those sickened.

Jensen Farms recalled its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes last week after the illnesses were linked to its fruit. The recalled cantaloupes were shipped from July 29 through Sept. 10 to Illinois, Wyoming, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The FDA says it is possible the company distributed to other states as well.

Health experts say the number of sick people will probably grow because the incubation period for Listeria can be up to a month. Unlike many pathogens, Listeria bacteria can grow at room and refrigerator temperatures. The FDA and CDC recommend anyone who may have one of the contaminated cantaloupes to throw it out immediately.

About 800 cases of Listeria are reported in the United States each year, according to CDC, and there usually are three or four outbreaks. Most of these are traced to deli meat and soft cheeses, where Listeria is most common.

Produce has rarely been the culprit, but federal investigators say they have seen more produce-related Listeria illnesses in the last two years. It was found in sprouts in 2009 and celery in 2010.

While most healthy adults can consume Listeria with no ill effects, it can kill the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. It is also dangerous to pregnant women because it easily passes through to the fetus.

Symptoms of Listeria include fever and muscle aches, often with other gastrointestinal symptoms.

For more information on the Listeria outbreak, go to the CDC's website at http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/listeriosis/outbreak.html, or the FDA's website at http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm271899.htm.

A memorial fund has been set up to help Occhipinti-Krout's family. You can call any Wells Fargo and ask to donate to the "Shelly Occhipinti-Krout Memorial Fund."

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)

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