cryptosporidium attorney


The Tennessee Department of Health is investigating multiple gastrointestinal disease reports among people who say they consumed raw milk prior to their illness. TDH has confirmed two cases of cryptosporidiosis in individuals in the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Region. Both cases of illness are associated with consumption of raw milk from a dairy cow share program. TDH is interviewing additional participants in the program to determine if other people have been sickened. In recent months, TDH has interviewed individuals about sporadic cases of Campylobacter and Shiga-toxin producing E. coli who also reported consuming raw milk from different sources.

“Consuming raw milk in the belief it’s healthier than pasteurized milk is a perilous risk that shakes off the possibility of a range of serious and occasionally fatal illnesses for the individuals and anyone they share it with,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Our best choice for healthy, nutritious milk is the pasteurized kind. Even if one believes there are health benefits, an upside, is it worth gambling on the downside risk of a serious illness, especially in a child?”

Cow share programs were made legal in Tennessee in 2009, allowing wider access to raw milk. Since that time TDH has had increasing reports of disease and outbreaks linked to raw milk consumption. In 2013, nine Tennessee children became extremely sick with E. coli O157 after drinking raw milk. Five of these children required hospitalization and three developed severe, life-threatening kidney problems.

“The Department of Agriculture has a thorough dairy inspection program focused on detecting potential health risks before milk reaches the consumer,” Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “Legal pasteurization through a licensed dairy facility is the only way to ensure that dairy products are safe to consume. Despite a producer’s best intentions, without pasteurization, bacteria exposure is a real danger.”

Harmful bacteria that can be found in unpasteurized milk from cows, goats and other mammals include Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli and Salmonella. Common symptoms of illness from drinking contaminated raw milk include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headaches, fever and body aches. While some people sickened with these contaminants may respond to medical treatment, others may suffer irreversible organ damage or death.

“Raw milk is 150 times more likely to cause a foodborne illness than pasteurized milk and can be life-threatening to some, particularly to children. Those who consume raw milk should be aware of the serious health risks involved,” said TDH Deputy State Epidemiologist John Dunn, DVM, PhD. “While some adults may be able to tolerate bacteria found in unpasteurized milk or food products made with raw milk, children, older adults, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems can be in great danger.

“While it is legal in Tennessee for individuals to consume raw milk from their own animals, it doesn’t change the risk to their health,” continued Dunn. “The simple fact is all raw milk contains bacteria that pasteurization would destroy. We strongly urge Tennesseans to choose pasteurized foods and beverages when purchasing and consuming dairy products.”

To eliminate risk of infection, the Tennessee Department of Health suggests consumers read the labels of all milk and cheese products to make sure they buy only those which have been pasteurized. Pasteurization kills harmful bacteria by simply heating milk for a specific amount of time. Pasteurization has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Since 1987, the Food and Drug Administration has prohibited distribution of raw milk across state lines for direct sales to consumers. Some people take extreme measures to obtain raw milk, even buying and consuming raw milk labeled as pet food or investing in shared ownership of a milk cow or goat.

Food Safety News reports that the sale of raw milk from Treasured Sunrise Acres in Parma, ID, has been put on hold until further notice by the Idaho Department of Agriculture after recently testing positive for Cryptosporidium.

Milk from Treasured Sunrise Acres tested positive for the parasite the week of Aug. 24, according to news reports. Two Canyon County residents who consumed the dairy’s raw goat milk reportedly became ill.

State officials said anyone who purchased raw goat or cow milk from the dairy or any retail outlets selling it on or after Aug. 24 should not consume the milk but should discard it. The milk was apparently sold in stores in Boise, Caldwell, Ketchum and Star.

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that can cause stomach cramps or pain, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever and weight loss. However, the most common symptom is watery diarrhea, although some people have no symptoms at all. Cryptosporidium can be spread in several ways, but is most often transmitted by drinking and recreational water.  Symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis generally begin two to 10 days (average is seven days) after becoming infected with the parasite and usually last about one to two weeks in people with healthy immune systems.

John Caher of the New York Law Journal reported a few days ago on “Park Patrons Made Sick in 2005 Await Overdue Day in Court.”  To quote British politician William Gladstone –“Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.”  This is nearly the oldest case we have in the office.  As Mr. Caher reports:

Nine years after a parasite (cryptosporidium) invaded a Finger Lakes water park and turned a summertime outing into stomach-wrenching agony for thousands of visitors, 2,501 claimants are still waiting for their day in court.

And they may have to wait even longer.

Although Syracuse Court of Claims Judge Nicholas Midey Jr. has scheduled a trial for May 5, the Attorney General’s Office is seeking a delay until 2015 to challenge several pretrial rulings. Midey has refused to dismiss the case, or to disqualify an expert witness and bar one of the plaintiff firms from continuing to work for claimants it has represented since the case began in 2005.

Assistant Attorney General Edward McArdle, who is defending the case, said in a March 14 motion that the state needed time to pursue an appeal and deal with some trial logistics and last-minute evidentiary issues.

But an attorney for the claimants said the state is simply stalling.

“If a private company had done the things the state has done, the state would be the first to protect the interests of the boys and girls who were made terribly sick during the summer of 2005,” said Paul Nunes, a partner at Underberg & Kessler in Rochester (our cocounsel).  “They would be champions for these innocent kids, and their parents. I have a lot of respect for the AG’s office and [Attorney General Eric] Schneiderman. However, the handling of this case has made me very sad.”

Schneiderman’s office declined comment.