The state of Alaska Section of Epidemiology (SOE) is investigating four recent cases of Campylobacter infection associated with drinking raw milk from an Alaska farm. According to a recent epidemiology bulletin, on June 15, 2011, SOE was notified by the Alaska State Public Health Laboratory of four Campylobacter jejuni isolates with identical pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. After conducting interviews of the four individuals, health officials discovered that the consumption of unpasteurized, or raw, milk was the only exposure common to all ill persons.
During their investigation SOE learned the following:
All four persons with matching Campylobacter isolates experienced acute gastroenteritis in May and June 2011. Patient ages ranged from 1 – 81 years. All four persons were living in Southcentral Alaska at the time of their illness, and all reported consuming raw milk from the same cow share farm in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.
Although Alaska state regulations do not permit the sale of raw milk, owning shares of an animal to receive that animal’s milk is permissible. Unlike milk supplied by commercial outlets, there is no testing or pasteurization required of milk before distribution from a cow-share program.
SOE reported that:
With the onset dates for the four confirmed cases scattered over almost a month-long period, it is unlikely that there was a single “bad batch” of milk, but rather multiple batches of contaminated milk. Raw milk outbreaks can be intermittent and protracted, and this outbreak might well be ongoing. Therefore, we strongly encourage health care providers and the general public to report to SOE all cases of acute gastroenteritis following consumption of raw milk. By interviewing ill persons, we are able to better understand the factors associated with this outbreak and thereby provide more specific control measures to prevent future illness from occurring.
In light of the potentially ongoing Campylobacter jejuni outbreak, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services issued a press release today urging anyone who has consumed raw milk and subsequently experienced acute gastrointestinal illness (i.e. diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, fever) since March 2011 to contact the Section of Epidemiology at 907-269-8000.
Dr. Joe McLaughlin, chief of the Alaska SOE, stated, “Raw milk is an ideal substance for the proliferation of bacteria introduced through fecal contamination.” Moreover, he added, “Unpasteurized milk can be infected with a number of pathogens including Listeria, Salmonella, and as we’ve seen in this case, Campylobacter.”
For more information about the risks related to the consumption of unpasteurized milk, visit http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/.