September 2, 2014

Oregon Raw Milk E.coli Outbreak Targets Children

Of the 19 people who have been sickened by the raw milk E.coli outbreak linked to Foundation Farm in Oregon, 15 are children, four of whom have been hospitalized with kidney failure, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

The four children have hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a condition that develops in some children after an E. coli infection.  With HUS “damaged red blood cells start to clog the filtering system in the kidneys, which may eventually cause the life-threatening kidney failure associated with hemolytic uremic syndrome,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Treatment of HUS can include fluid replacement, red blood cell transfusions, platelet transfusions, plasma exchange and kidney dialysis.

So far, 11 of the 19 people who are ill, have culture-confirmed E. coli O157 infections.  The 15 patients who are children range in age from 18 months to 19 years old.  All 19 patients drank raw milk from Foundation Farm in Clackamas County. Raw milk from the farm is only food item that all 19 patients consumed prior to becoming ill, according to Oregon health officials. Laboratory tests show that E. coli O157 isolates from eight of the patients match isolates from samples taken from the farm and from some raw milk.

It doesn’t take a lot E.coli to make someone very sick. The infectious dose can be as small as 10 organisms, according to Heidi Kassenborg, DVM, and director of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Dairy and Food Inspection Division.

Children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are most at-risk for developing HUS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And children are among those most affected by outbreaks associated with raw milk.  “It is important to note that a substantial proportion of the raw milk-associated disease burden falls on children; among the 93 raw dairy product outbreaks from 1998 to 2009, 79% involved at least one person less than 20 years old,” a CDC raw milk fact sheet states.

Health officials in Oregon continue to remind consumers that pasteurization is the only way to make sure that milk is free of pathogens.

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