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FOR RELEASE: December 22, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Health Department Issues Warning About Potential Rabies Exposure from Drinking Unpasteurized Milk

Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) officials announced today that persons who consumed raw, unpasteurized milk or cream sold by the Swan Bros. Dairy located in Claremore, Oklahoma between the dates of December 4 through December 19, may have been exposed to rabies virus. One of the dairy cows on the farm was confirmed to have rabies by testing at the OSDH Laboratory. Milk from the rabid cow was combined with the milk from healthy cows and bottled prior to sale to the public, so the potential exists for a low level of contamination with the rabies virus during this time period.

Most healthy persons who consumed the raw milk or cream are not at risk for rabies exposure, but persons with certain medical conditions may be at risk and should contact their health care provider or the OSDH at (405) 271-0980 to determine if rabies postexposure shots are indicated. Medical conditions that would place a person at risk are those that suppress the immune system, cause abnormalities of the palate, or cause open sores, erosions or ulcerations in the mouth, throat or esophagus.

Rabies is a viral disease that is usually transmitted through a bite or by inoculation of saliva or nervous tissue into an opening in the skin or mucous membrane (eyes, nose, or mouth). There have been no documented cases of human rabies due to consumption of milk from a rabid animal; however, a very small risk is thought to exist. Heat treatment of milk such as pasteurization or cooking prior to consumption completely inactivates the virus. Only the raw milk and cream sold at the Swan Bros. Dairy is of a public health concern. Swan Bros. Dairy cheese products do not pose a risk for rabies exposure as none of the rabies-contaminated milk was used in cheese products retailed by the Swan Bros. Dairy. State regulations require that all milk sold through commercial stores and restaurants be pasteurized. Therefore, all milk products purchased at these locations are considered safe.

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