A Listeria outbreak linked to raw milk produced by Miller’s Organic Farm in Bird in Hand Pennsylvania sickened two people in 2014, killing one of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health officials are now looking for other illnesses that may be part of this outbreak.
Although the two confirmed illnesses, one in California and one in Florida, both occurred during 2014, the source was not discovered until January 2016. Because the Listeria was found in the raw milk recently, CDC officials are “concerned that conditions may exist at the farm that may cause further contamination of raw milk and raw dairy products distributed by this company and make people sick,” the agency stated in its announcement of the outbreak.
In January, officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told the CDC that the genetic “fingerprint” of Listeria found in raw chocolate milk produced by Miller’s Organic Farm was closely related to the strain that sickened the California and Florida resident. The case patients were 73 and 81 years. Both were hospitalized, the Florida resident died.
Health officials are using the PulseNet system to identify other illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health labs coordinated by the CDC.
Raw milk is not pasteurized and can contain harmful bacteria such as Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella. It has been the source of dozens of outbreaks. Children are disproportionately affected by these outbreaks. Others at high risk for serious illness form food poisoning are seniors, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.
Public health officials recommend drinking only pasteurized milk and eating only cheese that is pasteurized.
Food contaminated with Listeria doesn’t look or smell unusual. Once ingested, it typically takes about three weeks for symptoms including headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and fever, to develop, but it can take as long as 70 days.
Those most at risk for serious illness from Listeria are young children, seniors, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems. Among pregnant women, Listeria can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and infection in newborns.