One of the tastiest ways to cool off in summer is with a slice of ripe, juicy melon.

And with watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew now coming into season, you probably can't wait to sink your teeth into these naturally sweet fruits.

In fact, you may not even want to spend the time it takes to slice some up yourself, given that many stores now sell melon that’s already been cut up and ready to eat.

But if you've bought any pre-cut melon lately, you're going to need to toss it out -- because it's been linked to an outbreak of the nasty bacteria salmonella that's sickened 60 people (half of whom were hospitalized) in five Midwestern states since early June.

As I've shared with you before, salmonella -- which is often found in raw eggs and poultry -- can cause miserable toilet troubles and can even be deadly.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) traced the current outbreak to plastic clamshells of pre-cut watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe -- and fruit medleys containing at least one of those fruits -- produced by Caito Foods in Indianapolis.

But folks have fallen ill not only in Indiana… but also Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio.

And this might be just the beginning of the outbreak -- because the fruit was also distributed to stores in Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

Caito Foods has since recalled the products – but the fruit was sold in so many stores (including Costco, Kroger, Trader Joe's, Walmart, and Whole Foods) and under so many different brand names that the CDC is urging everyone to throw away or return ANY pre-cut melon.

Now, if you do get sickened by salmonella, you'll definitely know it.

About 12 to 24 hours after you eat something contaminated with salmonella, you'll likely get walloped with abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

In healthy folks, the illness typically passes within four to seven days -- but if you're on the older side or in fragile health, it could take months for your bowels to return to normal.

What's more, those who've been infected with salmonella are at risk of what's called "reactive arthritis," which causes everything from achy joints to painful urination.

And if salmonella gets into your bloodstream (a.k.a. "bacteremia"), it can infect tissues throughout your body, including your brain, spinal cord, and heart .

You want to do everything you can to avoid catching this nasty bug!

So, for now, toss out the pre-cut stuff and use some good ol' elbow grease to carve into the season's ripe melons.

If you do come down with a case of this food-borne illness, there’s a “natural antibiotic” that deals a serious blow to common infectious organisms like salmonella. It’s called berberine, and it’s been heralded for its ability to cleanse and purify – not just in cases of “food poisoning,” but also “staph,” “strep,” chlamydia, diphtheria, cholera, diplococcus pneumoniae, pseudomonas, gonorrhea, candida, trichomonas… the list goes on.

Of course, check with your doc before you start up on anything new.

And for good measure, never eat raw eggs or poultry -- and always wash your hands thoroughly after handling these foods.