CDC issues alert over raw milk and Brucella infection

After a Texas woman contracted brucellosis from drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk from a Texas dairy and other possible cases pending, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is sounding the alarm and trying to contact consumers so they can receive prophylactic antibiotics.

As noted by the CDC 2 days ago, raw milk from the K-Bar Dairy in Paradise, Texas, tested positive for Brucella RB51, a rare bacterium that can cause serious illness.

"CDC advises that people who consumed raw milk or milk products from the K-Bar Dairy between June 1 and Aug. 7, 2017, should get antibiotic treatment to avoid the risk of lifelong, chronic infections," the agency said in a news release today.

People with brucellosis typically experience fever, sweats, aches, and fatigue initially. If not treated, however, the condition can lead to arthritis, heart problems, enlargement of the spleen or liver, and, in rare cases, nervous system problems.

Concern over reaching consumers

"It's very important for people who drank raw milk from this dairy to seek treatment to prevent infection with Brucella RB51," said William Bower, MD, team lead for the CDC group that investigates brucellosis. "Even if people don't have any symptoms now, they can develop a chronic infection that can impact their health for years to come."

Drinking K-Bar raw milk led to the Texas woman's Brucella RB51 infection, the CDC said. "Purchase records and illness reports indicate additional people in Texas and some as far away as California and North Dakota may need antibiotics to prevent or treat infection," the agency added.

"In Texas, raw milk is only allowed to be sold on site at the dairy. According to Texas [Department of State Health Services], K-Bar dairy has been operating in compliance with state dairy laws and rules and is cooperating fully with the investigation."

CDC and Texas health officials have been trying to reach people in more than 800 households who are known to have bought K-Bar raw milk. Texas officials are following up with 170 of them.

The CDC tried to contact the remaining 672 households but doesn't have complete contact information for 200 of them. The CDC reached 236 households of the 485 with good contact information. Among those households, 83% of people were potentially exposed to Brucella RB51 by drinking the milk, the agency said.

The CDC expressed concern over the 200 households it is having difficulty reaching. It also said that people who sampled the milk at K-Bar Dairy or got the milk from friends or family may likewise not be aware of their risk.

Other suspected cases?

The CDC added, "So far, CDC and Texas health officials have received reports about people who drank K-Bar milk or have symptoms consistent with brucellosis caused by RB51 in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Ohio, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas."

A query to clarify whether this statement meant officials are investigating more suspected cases—and in which states—was not answered by the CDC at press time.

The news release concludes, "CDC recommends that people only drink milk that has been pasteurized to kill germs. Even healthy animals may carry germs that can contaminate milk. There is no substitute for pasteurization to assure that milk is safe to drink."

See also:

Sep 15 CDC news release

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