June 5, 2020

In Durand Raw Milk Football Team Outbreak, Farm May Be Identified

>Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services will finally identify the farm that supplied raw milk linked to a large food poisoning outbreak in the west-central town of Durand this fall. Based on numerous accounts, participants in a potluck banquet for the Durand High School football teams were not informed that the milk they were served was unpasteurized. Within days, multiple students were hospitalized and state health investigators ultimately confirmed 38 victims. The outbreak was so severe, the football program was forced to cancel two of its games and school officials marked 150 absences.

MilkStephanie Smiley, a spokeswoman for the  Department of Health Services, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the raw milk farm could be named in a report on the outbreak that  is due out next month. “I believe we will have the information in that report,” Smiley said. Officials already have proven through genetic testing that Campylobacter bacteria found in manure samples and milk at the farm matched the pathogen strain that made people sick. The milk and manure samples were taken six days after the pot luck dinner, but the farm has never been publicly named, the Journal-Sentinel reported

The outbreak dates back to September when the Pepin County Health Department first confirmed that Campylobacter was to blame for a rash of gastrointestinal illnesses among people associated with the Durand School District. Student Brianna Winnekins, a manager of the football team who was hospitalized for four days, has said in two interviews that she would have avoided the milk during the banquet if she had known it was raw. Instead, she drank two glasses and wound up in Chippewa Valley Hospital for four days with a dangerously high fever.

Raw milk sales are largely prohibited in Wisconsin because of the well-known risks of infection from pathogenic bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. Knowing the name of the farm that produced the raw milk will play into any possible lawsuit tied to the Durand football food poisoning outbreak.

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