October 17, 2018

Campylobacter Raw Milk Outbreak in Alaska

A Campylobacter outbreak associated with raw milk has been reported in Alaska. The Alaska Department of Health has released a Health Advisory warning residents about a “recent and potentially ongoing outbreak of Campylobacter infections that have been associated with consuming raw milk.” Campylobacter infections are reportable to the epidemiologists at health departments. The sale of raw milk is illegal in Alaska, although farmers use “cow share” programs to sell the product to consumers.

Raw milkSince late January 2013 four people with confirmed infections and one person with a probable infection reported consuming unpasteurized milk in the few days before they got sick. An infant with “close contact” to a confirmed case-patient may also be infected with the bacteria. All patients live on the Kenai Peninsula. The bacteria isolated from the four confirmed patients are a match by DNA, confirmed by PFGE. This strain of bacteria has not been previously found in Alaska.

Campylobacter can cause diarrhea, which can be bloody, abdominal pains and craps, nausea, vomiting, and fever two to five days after exposure. Some people can develop serious and life-threatening complications from this infection, including Guillain-Barré syndrome that can cause paralysis. Campylobacter can also cause arthritis.

A Campylobacter outbreak in Alaska in 2011 was linked to raw milk from a farm that has since gone out of business. Eighteen people were sickened in that outbreak. Other sources of the bacteria include undercooked meat, contact with feces from infected animals, cross-contaminated food and water, and person-to-person contact.

If you are experiencing symptoms of a Campylobacter infection, see a doctor immediately and tell him about this Health Advisory. If you consumed raw milk in 2013 and have a diarrheal illness, report the illness to the Section of Epidemiology at 907-269-8000 in Anchorage, or toll free at 1-800-478-0084.

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