The Knox County Health Department (KCHD) is investigating a cluster of Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157 cases in children likely associated with consumption of raw milk and contact with farm animals.
Most of the children are known to have consumed raw milk from a local cow-share dairy. Due to possible contamination with E. coli O157 and out of an abundance of caution, KCHD advises the public not to consume raw milk or any other unpasteurized products from French Broad Farm in Mascot, Tenn. at this time. Officials also recommend consumers dispose of all raw milk and unpasteurized products they may have from this farm.
Any further exposure to the farm animals in question has been mitigated as the facility is not currently operating. Therefore, no further directive on that potential source is necessary.
“Bacteria, like E. coli, cannot be seen with the naked eye,” said KCHD Director Dr. Martha Buchanan. “For some perspective, roughly 1,800 can fit on the head of a pen, and it only takes about 10 to make you sick.”
Raw milk and other unpasteurized products can contain harmful bacteria, including E. coli O157. While it is possible to get sick from many other foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest. E. coli can also be found in the feces of cattle, goats, sheep and other ruminant animals. Historically, the major source for human illness is cattle, which can carry E. coli 0157 and show no signs of illness. These bacteria, however, can cause severe diarrhea and even life-threatening complications for humans, especially children, older adults, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems. Information on preventing E. coli can be found on the CDC’s website.
Symptoms of E. coli infection vary for each person, but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some may have a low fever (less than 101 ̊F). Some infections are mild, but others can be severe.