Listeria claims three lives in Australia

web_photo_listeria_05122017

Electron micrograph of listeria monocytogenes bacterium in tissue

Electron micrograph of listeria monocytogenes bacterium in tissue

web_photo_listeria_05122017

Electron micrograph of listeria monocytogenes bacterium in tissue

Electron micrograph of listeria monocytogenes bacterium in tissue

SYDNEY - Three Australians have died after consuming melon contaminated with listeria amid an outbreak that has promoted health authorities to warn those at risk to throw out pre-cut melons.

Listeria is a commonly found bacteria and for most people who consume foods that contain it does not cause illness.

But elderly people, pregnant women or those with serious conditions like diabetes or cancer, it poses a serious threat.

READ: Listeriosis death toll spikes sharply

At least 15 cases of listeriosis have been reported since authorities were first alerted to the outbreak last month.

"All 15 cases are elderly people, and most of them have significant underlying health conditions," Director Communicable Diseases New South Wales Health Dr Vicky Sheppeard said in a statement Friday.

"People vulnerable to listeriosis should discard any rockmelon purchased before 1 March."

EXPLAINER: What is listeriosis?

The source has been linked to a farm in New South Wales state, with authorities investigating the supply chain after issuing a warning on February 23.

Listeriosis begins with flu-like symptoms including chills, fever and muscle aches. It can take up to six weeks after consuming contaminated foods for the symptoms to occur.