CDC issues raw milk Brucella warning for 4 states

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today said people in four states—Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island—who drank raw milk from Udder Milk may be infected with a rare but serious Brucella abortus RB51 bacterium and should see their doctors for antibiotic treatment.

Brucella can sicken anyone, but in women, it can cause miscarriage and other pregnancy complications, making it critical for pregnant women who may have consumed raw milk from Udder Milk to seek immediate medical care, the CDC warned.

Company not providing source info

The CDC's warning comes after a New Jersey woman got sick in late September after drinking raw milk from Udder Milk. The alert is the second of its kind in the past 3 months. In September, the CDC urged people who consumed raw milk from a Texas dairy to contact their doctors after a Texas woman contracted brucellosis from drinking raw milk, with other suspected cases pending.

The CDC said the New Jersey and Texas incidents are not related. The Texas dairy cooperated with investigators, and raw milk samples from its facility tested positive for Brucella RB51.

Complicating the probe of the New Jersey investigation, Udder Milk doesn't appear to be cooperating with the federal and state investigators. The company hasn't provided information about farms that supply the milk, making it impossible to find the source of the woman's infection.

Udder Milk directs customers to member-only websites for the sale and delivery of the raw milk, which shift to avoid detection by public health officials. In New Jersey, selling and distributing raw milk and raw milk products is illegal, and in New York, selling raw milk outside of farms that produce it is also illegal. Also, farms that sell raw milk in New York require a permit.

Despite the lack of information from the company, federal and state officials are working to trace the source of the contaminated raw milk and raw milk products.

CDC: Udder Milk consumers need antibiotics

William Bower, MD, team lead for the CDC group that investigates brucellosis, said in a CDC press release, "Because health officials have no direct way to let people know they may have drunk contaminated milk, everyone who consumed milk from Udder Milk in the past 6 months should receive antibiotics now to avoid having long-term health effects from the bacteria."

The CDC said the Brucella RB51 strain is resistant to some antibiotics typically used to prevent or treat brucellosis, and people who drank raw milk from Udder Milk should tell their doctors that they may have been exposed to the particular strain.

Symptoms can include fever, sweating, aching, and fatigue. Untreated, the infection can progress to arthritis, heart problems, liver or spleen enlargement, and sometimes nervous system problems. Even people without acute symptoms can develop chronic infections that can last years, Browder said in a September warning related to the Texas Brucella RB51 case.

Those who consumed products from Udder Milk should monitor themselves for fever for 1 month after they last drank the milk and watch for other symptoms for 6 months.

RB51 is a weakened Brucella strain used to vaccinate young female cattle, the CDC said. Though cattle vaccination has driven down the risk of people contracting brucellosis from sick cows, in rare instances, vaccinated animals can shed RB51 in their milk.

"The only way to avoid this potential exposure to RB51 is to drink pasteurized milk," the CDC said in its warning today.

See also:

Nov 21 CDC press release

Sep 15 CIDRAP News story "CDC issues alert over raw milk and Brucella infection"

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