After woman's death doctors wonder if tainted cantaloupe made it into La.

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 3, 2011 at 7:30 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 3 at 7:42 PM

Meg Farris / Medical Reporter

NEW ORLEANS -- Health inspectors are trying to find out where the listeria bacteria came from that killed a Louisiana woman over the weekend.

Her family says she ate cantaloupe a few weeks earlier.

Elaine Babcock, 87, of Baton Rouge, was a retired school teacher, and her family says she was in poor health.

Now doctors want to know if tainted cantaloupes have made it to Louisiana.

The listeria bacteria sample is now at the CDC in Atlanta being tested to see if it is genetically related to the strain found in cantaloupes that were recalled earlier. Those Jensen Farms, Colorado cantaloupes are linked to 84 illnesses and at least 17 deaths in 19 states.

"So they do like DNA finger printing, and if it matches the strain, we'll know where it comes from," said Dr. Raoult Ratard, Louisiana's state epidemiologist.

The hospital ran tests now that Babcock has died of listeria food poisoning, but there is no confirmation on where it came from.

"We are trying to interview the family members to find out that among the things that she ate, there was some cantaloupe a few weeks ago, and since some cases of listeria were linked to cantaloupe, we thought that it would be a possibility," explained Dr. Ratard about the health investigation.

Back in 2000, we told you the story of a New Orleans woman, Liz Sloss, who years earlier was in her sixth month of pregnancy, expecting perfectly healthy twin boys. Then she got sick with listeria and lost both of her children.

"I said, 'It doesn't feel like these babies are moving.' He (the obstetrician) says, 'That happens. You run high fever, that often happens,'" said Sloss in 2000 as she recalled what happened during her pregnancy after getting sick with high fever.

Listeria can be found in unpasteurized soft cheeses and milk, raw meat, poultry and even cooked packaged or deli style meats, so they should be cooked or heated. Do not cross-contaminate raw vegetables with meat on cutting boards, utensils or your hands. Wash them thoroughly in between use.

Doctors say the symptoms can develop anywhere from two to 30 days after you eat the contaminated food. Listeria is throughout the soil so can end up in produce. But most of us don't get sick from it.

"Usually if you are in good health, you are not going to get sick from listeria. But very old people, very young babies, people that are severe chronic disease, people that have problems with their immune system, then they can get blood poisoning from listeria," added Dr. Ratard.

The results on the lab test are expected back from the CDC in one to two weeks.

For more information on the CDC listeria infection, click here. For more information on CDC listeria prevention, click here.

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