October 19, 2018

Raw Milk and Campylobacter: A Frequent Pair

>Raw milk is a frequent source of Campylobacter outbreaks, as high school students in Durand, Wisconsin learned this fall. Thirty eight people developed Campylobacter infections when they unknowingly drank raw milk provided by a parent for a football banquet.

MilkThe outbreak, which hospitalized eight people, left many students and players sick for weeks forcing the cancelation of two football games. It also triggered a massive cleaning effort at the school and prompted many students to stay home from class to avoid becoming ill.

Campylobacter is a bacteria that causes illness when food or beverages contaminated with animal feces are consumed.  Symptoms of campylobacteriosis include diarrhea, which is sometimes bloody, abdominal cramping, fever, nausea and vomiting. Serious, long-term complications from these infections can develop after initial symptoms resolve including reactive arthritis which causes painful swelling of the joints and Guillain-Barré Syndrome which  causes weakness and paralysis lasting weeks, months or years.

Teenagers and younger children are especially vulnerable to food poisoning because their immune systems are not fully developed. Because raw milk can harbor dangerous pathogens such as Campylobacter, E.coli and Listeria public health officials recommend that children only consume pasteurized milk.

Wisconsin health officials used DNA “fingerprinting” to link the Campylobacter bacteria found on the farm that supplied the milk to the strain that sickened team members. In their final repot on the outbreak, due out later this month, they may reveal the name of the farm that supplied the tainted milk.


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