Raw Milk May Be Source of Southcentral Infections

Raw milk is thought to be the culprit behind an outbreak of illness in the state’s Southcentral region. Dr. Joe McLaughlin, chief epidemiologist with the state section of Epidemiology, is investigating four recent cases of campylobacter infection associated with drinking raw milk from an unnamed Matanuska Valley farm.

The sale of raw milk is not legal in Alaska but the law does allow a person to own a share of a cow. The state does not require testing or pasteurization of milk from a cow-share program.

Dr. McLaughlin says drinking raw milk is not a good idea, because of the pathogens that raw milk can contain.

Unpasteurized milk can be infected with a number of pathogens including Listeria, and Salmonella. Listeria can cause life threatening infections in newborns and adults, he says.  Four cases of the campylobacter infection were reported within a month. One case involved a child, the other three victims are adults. Dr. McLaughlin says campylobacter infection is not life threatening in itself, but it can lead to serious, lifelong health problems.

He says the four campylobacter cases, reported roughly a week apart between early May and early June, indicate more to come

Anyone who has consumed raw milk, and then experienced acute gastrointestinal illness characterized by diarrhea, cramps, vomiting and fever,  is asked to contact the state section of Epidemiology.

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APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone. Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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