As many as 5 sickened – Raw Milk the link?

Jodie Jackson of the Columbia Tribune reported today that a Boone County 2-year-old infected with E. coli remained hospitalized (likely with hemolytic uremic syndrome – HUS) this morning in Columbia as one of five Central Missouri residents battling the bacteria.

dhss_logo.gifGeni Alexander, public information officer for the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, said the 2-year-old is one of three Boone County residents with either a confirmed or suspected case of the illness.

Alexander said health officials have determined that consumption of raw dairy products was the only common link for possible exposure among the three Boone County victims. She did not disclose the gender of the victims.

“Each person was identified as a raw dairy consumer,” Alexander said, “but we can’t say they all got it from the same place.”

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is investigating an increase in cases of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in Central Missouri from late March through early April. In addition to the Boone County 2-year-old, state health officials reported Thursday that a 17-month-old toddler also developed symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a severe condition that can lead to permanent kidney damage in some who survive the illness.

Alexander said the victims of the three Boone County cases range in age from 2 to 31. The 17-month-old victim is not a Boone County resident, she said.

“In public health, we always advise to stay away from those raw dairy products,” she said.

For more information on the real risks of raw milk, see Real Raw Milk Facts.  Here is some background from a 2008 Missouri Raw Milk Outbreak:

On May 12, 2008 the Lawrence County Health Department (LCHD) was notified of a case of HUS in a child with a history of bloody diarrhea. The health care provider reported that the child had consumed unpasteurized goat’s milk obtained from a local store, the Herb Depot, in Barry County, Missouri. The milk had been purchased on April 29, 2008. It was quickly learned that an additional Barry County child that had cultured positive for E. coli O157:H7 had also consumed unpasteurized goat’s milk from the same store. As a result, the LCHD contacted the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) who began a full epidemiological and environmental investigation of the illnesses. The investigation revealed that the milk consumed by both ill children had been produced at Autumn Olive Farms.

At the conclusion of its investigation, the DHSS ultimately announced that there were four cases of E. coli O157:H7 associated with the outbreak. Of these, three were laboratory confirmed, and one was identified as a probable case. Each of these individuals resided in different counties in Southwest Missouri, and were not known to have any relation to each other. Nonetheless, each shared a common exposure to milk from Autumn Olive Farms. In addition, the three culture-confirmed cases shared a common, indistinguishable genetic strain of E. coli O157:H7. The strain was identified as a unique subtype of E. coli O157:H7, never before reported in Missouri. Each of the four cases had consumed milk from Autumn Olive Farms within 3-4 days of onset of illness. The DHSS reported: “no other plausible sources of exposure common to all four cases were identified [other than the milk.]” The final outbreak report ultimately concluded: “the epidemiological findings strongly suggest the unpasteurized goat’s milk from Farm A [Autumn Olive] was the likely source of infection for each of the cases associated with this outbreak.”

  • Terry Murphy

    This story about these innocent children being fed raw milk makes me want to scream. As parents/guardians of our children, we are obligated to protect our children. I have no problem with adults who want to risk the real dangers of raw milk. But children have no choice, they depend on us for their safety and well being. To put a child through this preventable agony, is beyond me. We don’t let our children run onto traffic. How about a few minutes of online research to see if this is the gamble you want to take with a child’s health or even their life?

  • Dr Butterweck

    If raw milk is tested enough, it should be OK

  • As a farmer who produces small amounts of raw milk, along with many other products from our diversified farm in Boone County, Missouri (the same locale as this story), I have an inside view of how the local health department handles these issues. We feel this story is being poorly reported and covered, and the local health department is not handling the issue fairly.
    We’re not directly involved in this situation as our goats are just now kidding and we won’t have milk for weeks yet, but our experience has been that so many health officials take justifiable concern over poorly handled raw milk and turn it into problematic paranoia. On our farm we don’t consume raw milk and require anyone taking it from the farm to sign an agreement not to use it raw, but selling it raw is the only way we can economically produce any dairy at all given the expensive licensing and infrastructure requirements to do anything else (Missouri exempts direct-to-consumer raw milk from regulation). Please read our detailed and experienced take on this, as locals with insight into the situation, at:

  • amy

    Dr Butterweck, can you truly test every drop of the milk to verify that there is no harmful bacteria?