Cantaloupe Listeria Impact On Oklahoma

Thursday, September 29th 2011, 10:35 pm
By: News 9

Michael Konopasek, News 9

MUSTANG, Oklahoma -- One of the deadliest outbreaks of a food-borne disease in more than a decade is being blamed for 13 deaths and more than 73 illnesses across the United States. One of those deaths hit close to home, taking the life of a metro man.

William Beach of Mustang is believed to be the only Oklahoman to die from the listeria outbreak from just enjoying a simple cantaloupe, but experts say the big picture for casualties is still unfolding.

9/19/2011 Related Story: Four Confirmed Dead In Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak

With cantaloupe fears on high, store management at a Crest supermarket in Edmond says customers need not worry.

"Some people are still nervous," admitted Crest manager Dwight Roberson. "[There's] nothing to worry about here [at] Crest Foods."

The cantaloupes at Crest originated in California. The life-threatening melons that are under recall are from Colorado. The CDC says the tainted fruit will cause flu-like symptoms including diarrhea, cramping and headaches. The alarming fact is that listeria can incubate for 70 days before symptoms begin.

The disease claimed the life of William Beach who lived in Mustang. Neighbors were surprised to hear the news.

"I couldn't believe it was him that died from it," said neighbor Bill McCormack. "It was a total shock to me to hear that the only guy in Oklahoma that has died from [the outbreak] was right across the street."

No one was available at the Beach home for comment Thursday.

Back in Edmond, no matter where the cantaloupes are from, shoppers say they are not taking any chances.

"I'm staying clear of all cantaloupe, and it's my favorite fruit, so I'm sad," said one shopper.

Store management says the alarm is causing some concern.

"We have had customers come in and return the cantaloupes," said Roberson.

The CDC says people older than 60 are at the highest risk for the disease. Overall, Crest says its cantaloupe sales are still about normal. The Oklahoma Department of Health has confirmed a total of 11 cases linked to cantaloupe listeria.