State investigates alleged raw milk infection cases

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Section of Epidemiology is investigating four recent illnesses on the Kenai Peninsula believed to be associated with raw milk consumption, said Greg Wilkinson, a department spokesperson. The patients admitted to drinking raw milk a few days before getting sick, Wilkinson said. They have not told where they got the raw milk. Because of patient privacy rules, Wilkinson said he could not name the peninsula towns where the patients live.
The infection, campylobacter, can cause diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and fever after two to five days of consuming raw milk, according to a department press release.
The illness, caused from fecal contamination in the cow’s milk, can be life threatening in young children or those with compromised immune systems, according to the document. Some people with campylobacter infection develop arthritis. In rare cases, patients can develop a life-threatening disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome that inflames the nerves of the body and begins several weeks after the onset of diarrhea.
Wilkinson said four Kenai Peninsula residents reported similar symptoms to the department, and it is conducting preliminary investigations. A fifth person also is suspected to have a probable campylobacter infection, but that has not been confirmed. An infant with close contact to one of the four victims also is suspected to be infected.
Alaska regulations do not allow the sale of raw milk; however, buying shares of a cow to receive its milk is permissible.
Dr. Brian Yablon, an epidemiologist with DHSS, said raw milk serves as an ideal environment for bacteria such as e.coli, listeria, salmonella and campylobacter.
Thousands of Americans have been sickened and hundreds have been hospitalized because of infections acquired from raw milk over the past 25 years in the United States, Yalbon said.
“This is not new knowledge,” he said. “The infectious risks of raw milk have been known for hundreds of years, and are the reason that pasteurization became universal practice in the United States in the 19th century.”
In a 2011 outbreak, 18 people reported illness of campylobacter that was eventually traced to a Mat-Su valley farm. Other sources of campylobacter include consumption of under-cooked meat, consumption of food or water cross-contaminated by raw meat or from contact with the feces of infected animals. Humans also can spread the sickness to each other.
The department asks that anyone experiencing stomach pains, diarrhea or a fever since January to call the department’s Section of Epidemiology at (907) 269-8000 and request a member of the epidemiology team.
Dan Schwartz is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.Homer News reporter Michael Armstrong contributed to this story.

More in News

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Homer City Council candidate Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

Traffic moves north along the Sterling Highway shortly after a fatal crash closed the highway for several hours Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. The state is seeking federal funding for a project aimed at improving safety along the Sterling Highway between mileposts 82.5 to 94, or between Sterling and Soldotna. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
State looks to federal funding for Sterling Highway project

The project is aimed at improving highway safety between Sterling and Soldotna.

Ethan Benton (left) and Laura Walters of Kodiak win the vaccine lottery for the Alaska Chamber's week one vaccine lottery giveaway "Give AK a Shot." (Screenshot)
State names winners in 1st vaccine lottery

A Valdez and Kodiak resident took home checks for $49,000 each.

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
A podium marks the beginning of a StoryWalk at Soldotna Creek Park on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. The project was discontinued in August due to vandalism.
Vandalism ends Soldotna library program

The StoryWalk was made possible by a $2,500 donation from the Soldotna Library Friends.

Juneau Empire file
The Coast Guard medevaced a 90-year-old suffering stroke-like symptoms near Ketchikan aboard a 45-foot response boat-medium like this one, seen in Juneau, on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.
Coast Guard medevacs man from yacht near Ketchikan

The 90-year-old suffered symptoms of a stroke.

James Varsos, also known as “Hobo Jim,” poses for a photo during the August 2016, Funny River Festival in Funny River, Alaska, in August 2016. (Peninsula Clarion file)
‘Hobo Jim’ opens up about recent terminal cancer diagnosis

Varsos was named Alaska’s official “state balladeer” in 1994.

Most Read