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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Michigan Herd Share, Raw Milk and Q Fever don’t mix well

Screen shot 2011-06-23 at 11.51.43 AM.pngThis morning the Michigan Department of Community Health announced that three people in Livingston County Michigan have been diagnosed with of Q fever after drinking raw milk from a dairy herd share program. All three, women in their 30s or 40s, acknowledged obtaining raw milk from the “as yet named” farm. One of the women required prolonged hospitalization for Q fever meningitis.

Q fever is caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii, an organism common in farm animals. Infected animals shed the organism in their bodily fluids and people can become infected when they consume raw milk containing by the bacteria. The symptoms of Q fever, a reportable communicable disease in Michigan, can include high fevers (up to 104-105F), severe headache, joint and body aches, fatigue, chills/sweats, non-productive cough, chest pain, nausea and vomiting.

  • Bill Anderson

    It is highly unlikely that this infection resulted directly from ingestion of raw milk. More than likely, it came from the women being exposed to the farm enviroment where they get their raw milk. Q-Fever is very rarely transmitted through food. It is most often transmitted through inhalation of airborne dust.
    And if there really was that much dust in the air, this sounds like a farm I wouldn’t want to get raw milk from. Green grass is critical to raw milk safety.

  • Dr. Anderson, I presume? Let’s just see how the facts shake out. Curious, why not call for the naming of the dairy?
    A quick google search:
    The role of drinking unpasteurized milk in C. burnetii infection is controversial. C. burnetii has been recovered from milk from infected cows and goats and from butter[17,32]. Epidemiologic studies suggest that ingestion of unpasteurized milk has been a source of Coxiella infection for humans[6,17,33]. Experimental evidence to support a causal relationship is sparse. Asymptomatic seroconversion and infection were noted in inmates fed raw milk from a Q fever infected herd[33]. In another study, volunteers who drank naturally infected unpasteurized milk did not develop symptoms or an immunologic response to suggest infection[34]. These authors suggest that the lack of seroconversion in their study may have been related to exposure to a different Coxiella strain than the one that caused infection in the inmate population[33,34]. Pasteurization will effectively kill Coxiella in raw milk[35]. However, in our study, ingestion of cheese made from pasteurized goat milk was identified as an independent risk factor for infection (p=0.022) even though consumption of goat milk itself was not associated with an increased risk of infection (OR 1.07). This is the first time a pasteurized dairy product has been implicated in an outbreak of Q fever. However, 21 (14%) of 154 members of the community cohort ate the product but were not infected. The reason for the association between ingesting goat cheese and developing Q fever is not clear and suggests further study is needed. At present, this is an epidemiologic association only, as C. burnetii has not been recovered from the goat cheese.
    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/414431_4

  • Bill Anderson

    It would be great if they would release the name of the farm. Would you like to join me in a FOIA request to get the name of the WIsconsin Farm? Just today I found out that I succeeded in forcing DATCP to publish the raw milk working group report through a FOIA request I made. See here:
    http://datcp.wi.gov/Food/Raw_Milk/index.aspx
    This was my work, forcing them to publish it.
    Also, this study you just linked to is proving my point exactly. There are tests which can detect for the presence of C. burnetii anti-bodies in milk, which simply means that an animal in the herd has been exposed to it at one point it time. It does not mean that the organism is neccessarily present in the milk, and even if it is, it is highly unlikely to infect a person via ingestion.
    I was at the DATCP raw milk working group meeting when they considered the Q-Fever issue, and they decided against having a testing requirement because it is such a non-issue. If you were producing raw milk in Arizona or New Mexico, I could see Q-Fever being a potential problem. But the only way you are going to have a problem in the Midwest is if you are a CAFO-style farm.
    As I said, green grass is a very important component of raw milk safety.

  • Minkpuppy

    It’s always everything but the milk even when there’s a direct link to drinking raw milk. When we see brucellosis outbreaks (which we will as it has not been totally eradicated) what will be the excuse then?

  • Ron Erskine, DVM

    Visitors, including school children, walk through the Michigan State University dairy farm by the hundreds, if not thousands, each year. To my knowledge no one, including veterinary students that we bring out to the farm to teach how to address the cow’s health needs, has ever contracted Q fever, or any disease from farm dust. In Michigan, collectively with participating farmers and extension personnel, we have entertained thousands of visitors on Michigan dairy farms over the last several years, without incident. I personally, as well as many other veterinarians, nutritionists, and other dairy support professionals have been on hundreds of farms, in several countries, and numerous states, and have yet to encounter a cluster of 3 cases of Q fever, among a population of people who are in close contact with cattle and their environment every day of their working lives. While some of the poorly ventilated older barns may have ignited my allergies (when I was in private practice some years ago), the thought that someone would contract Q fever from barn dust is highly improbable, and a very low risk. The odds that three human cases would contract Q fever from the same farm dust are astronomical, unless of course there was another common thread of exposure, that being raw milk consumption. Pasteurization is the safe, well proven, and effective method to prevent exposure to a wide variety of food borne pathogens that can be transmitted in milk.
    The misconception that testing milk for pathogens should supplant pasteurization is based on the erroneous assumption that shedding of pathogens in milk is consistent from day to day, and thus reliable. Numbers and frequency of pathogen shedding are not consitent, and thus our to predict shedding cows from “assessing the farm environment”, or “looking at the cow’s attitude” is not consitently reliable either. It is a fact that the vast majority of dairy farms provide a clean wholesome environment for their cows, BUT subclinical (cows that do not show any sign of disease) shedding can still occur. The other misconception is that the frequency of food-borne disease from consumption of raw milk is relatively low, therefore we should not be worried over this problem. If one considers that probably ten to a hundred thousand gallons (conservatively) of pasteurized milk is consumed (as milk or dairy products) for every gallon of raw milk in the U.S., and if the public started to consume raw milk at the rate of pasteurized milk consumption, we would have an entirely different perspective.
    We had an outbreak of Camplyobacter in ths state last year, also linked to raw milk, I sincerely doubt that was related to barn dust as well.

  • As a dairy farmer, consumer, and mother, I cannot stress enough the importance of consuming pastuerized dairy products. Pastuerization is the only safe way to consume dairy, period. Pastuerized dairy products are the only dairy products consumed in our home, and we have a tank full of yummy, nutritious milk in our barn every day! My entire family takes part in our farm, it is our livlihood. We love what we do. We love our cows. We love taking part in feeding America. We know what a huge responsibility this is, and how much trust Americans put in our family and all the other farm families across the country to feed their family. Every day we strive to be better than we were the day before. Our number one goal is to provide American families, just like ours, with a high quality, safe, nutrient dense product they can feel good about feeding their family. There are very high standards we must meet to be able to have our dairy products sold to the public in stores, and we are upheld to those standards by a minimum of four random inspections per year. If we do not meet or exceed those standards, we lose our liscense, if we lose our liscense, we lose our way of life. No farmer wants to lose their way of life, because every farmer loves what they do, so we make sure to exceed the expectations of the standards imposed on us by the state and the cooperative we ship our milk with. If you are curious about life on the farm, please check out my facebook page, look up Dairy Mom, and you will find me. But, again, please, only consume pastuerized dairy products. We work as hard as we can every day to provide you with safe, nutritious, pastuerized dairy products, take advantage of that! :)

  • nana

    It is completely stupid to drink anything but pasteurized milk – Look up Center for Disease Control and view the video from the mom who almost lost her 7 year old son! Don’t tell me you can die from eating vegetables or meat. Yes, but you don’t do it on purpose. Drinking unpasteurized products is a choice and you might as well play Russian Rollett How can parents be so stupid!
    Testing Laboratory owner.

  • Mary McGonigle-Martin

    Nana, go easy on us stupid people. Go to http://www.realmilk.com to learn why people would choose to drink raw milk. The misinformation presented on this website is the problem.

  • marianne

    The name of the farm is Dairy Delight in Livingston county. Her website is http://www.dairydelight.org. Its really dirty there, feces all around the milk house.

  • Steve DeLongchamp

    Data, science, published articles, double blind studies all change. (Margarine is good, no it’s bad. Salt is bad, no it’s good. Flouride is good no it’s bad…) Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. People are free by virtue of being born, not because of the generosity of their government. Peoples rights are forcibly taken away by tyrants. Safety cannot be legislated any more than morality.