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An outbreak of salmonella linked to watermelons has claimed the life of one person (Reuters) Reuters

Watermelons may be the source of a salmonella outbreak across the UK that has infected 35 people and left one person dead.

The outbreak, which hit in December, has been linked to contaminated fruit after nearly a third of the victims said they had eaten watermelons within three days of getting sick.

One of the victims, who has not been named, died of underlying health complications, the Health Protection Agency said.

The same strain of the bug responsible for the disease - Salmonella Newport - has been identified in five food poisoning cases in Ireland and another 15 in Germany.

In November, the HPA found the strain in routine tests in a ready-to-eat sliced watermelon.

The HPA spoke to 15 of the inffected people and found that 10 of them had eaten watermelon in the three days before they were taken ill.

It is believed that there are two ways in which watermelons could be contaminated with salmonella. Bacteria on the surface of the fruit could be transferred to its flesh while it was being cut up, or transferred if melons are stored or washed in contaminated water.

The food safety watchdog has reminded people to wash all fruits and vegetables before consumption.