The Milford Daily News reported that two people died after drinking milk produced by Whittier Farms in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.  According to the story, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a warning to consumers not to drink milk produced by the dairy because it might be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. 

Whittier Farms distributes most of its milk to homes in the greater Worcester/Shrewsbury area under the brands Whittier, Schultz, Balance Rock, Spring Brook, and Maple. The dairy has ceased production until health officials are able to determine where the contamination occurred.

According to the Milford Daily News:

Four cases of listeriosis infection have been identified by DPH, according to a statement released by the state department late this afternoon. The cases occurred in June, October and two in November. The four cases involved three elderly residents and a pregnant woman from Worcester county. Two of the people have died. They have not been identified.

DNA fingerprinting conducted by the State Laboratory Institute showed that the bacteria causing these infections came from a common source. Samples collected showed product contamination.

Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. About one-third of listeriosis cases happen during pregnancy. The incidence of listeriosis in the newborn is 8.6 per 100,000 live births. There is no routine screening test for susceptibility to listeriosis during pregnancy, as there is for rubella and some other congenital infections. Newborns, rather than the pregnant women themselves, suffer the serious effects of infection in pregnancy. Persons with weakened immune systems due to treatment, particularly transplant recipients10 and persons on treatment for lymphoma, but also other cancer victims, are at significantly increased risk for Listeria infection.

  • Persons with AIDS suffer listeriosis 65-145 times more frequently than the general population.
  • Persons who take glucocorticosteroid medications (also called cortisone) are also at increased risk. The most common medication prescribed in this class is prednisone. The threshold above which prednisone begins to have a significant effect on the immune system is 20 mg per day for 5 days.
  • The elderly and certain debilitated patients (such as those on dialysis or alcoholics) are at minor increased risk for listeriosis.