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Campylobacter Cases from Raw Milk Outbreak Reach 80

Food Safety News

By James Andrews | March 01, 2012

Since Food Safety News last reported on February 24, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has confirmed an additional two cases of Campylobacter infections in an outbreak tied to contaminated unpasteurized milk from Your Family Cow dairy in Chambersburg, PA. The latest cases bring the outbreak toll to 80 confirmed illnesses.

The two new confirmations -- both from Pennsylvania -- do not have a recent onset, as the emergence of new cases appears to have slowed.

This is the largest foodborne illness linked to raw milk in Pennsylvania history, affecting individuals in four states. The breakdown of cases by state is as follows:

Pennsylvania (70 illnesses), Maryland (5), West Virginia (3), New Jersey (2).

Since 2007, Pennsylvania raw milk dairies have been linked to at least seven outbreaks, now resulting in a total of 287 illnesses. In 2008, the state had a raw milk outbreak of Campylobacter infection that sickened 72 people.

Illness onset dates for the current outbreak range from January 17 to February 1. At least nine people have been hospitalized.

Although the Your Family Cow dairy temporarily halted sales upon discovery of the outbreak, the farm was allowed to resume production on February 6, after passing a health inspection.

Lab tests by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found the outbreak strain of Campylobacter in two unopened bottles of raw milk collected from customers' homes, and the owners of Your Family Cow dairy acknowledged responsibility for the contaminated milk that caused the outbreak. "It was us ... food from our farm has made people sick," Edwin Shank wrote in an open letter posted on the dairy's website

Of the 80 confirmed cases, 25 (31 percent) are under the age of 18, while all those ill ranged in age from 2 to 74. Children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to illness from pathogenic bacteria.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania state department of health emphasized that the two latest confirmed cases occurred within the established illness onset range of January 17 to February 1, suggesting that the outbreak ended weeks ago. Regardless, more cases may continue to surface as health laboratories match illnesses to the outbreak.

The sale of raw milk in legal in Pennsylvania. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study showing that states that permit raw milk sales have more than twice as many illness outbreaks as states where raw milk is not sold.

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