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True Stories From The Disease Files

A Tale of Two Dairies:  Campylobacteriosis

A fun-filled field trip to two Oklahoma dairy farms, cow and goat, turned into an unexpected outbreak of diarrheal illness.  Early spring is an exciting time for visiting dairy farms to learn about the feeding and milking process of cows and goats.  However, this particular group of children and adults experienced some of the unforeseen effects from visiting animal farms.  While on the field trip, this group had the opportunity to feed, pet, and taste raw (unpasteurized) goat and raw cow’s milk.  The next day, some of the group started feeling ill with symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, malaise, fever and vomiting.  A few days later, three of the children had such severe symptoms they ended up in the local hospital.  The hospital reported the outbreak of diarrheal illness to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).  Further investigation revealed that all but one person who had attended the field trip became ill.  Stool samples from the attendees and the hospitalized patients yielded the culprit: Campylobacter jejuni.

An environmental investigation of the farms was conducted by OSDH and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture.  Samples of the stool from the cows and goats, samples from the railings at the farms, and milk samples were all brought back to the OSDH Public Health Laboratory to be analyzed.  People who attended the field trip were asked about their activities on that particular day.  Those questions included information such as drinking the raw cow and goat milk, feeding the animals, petting the animals, and their hand hygiene practices on the field trip.  All persons reported drinking the cow milk, and most drank the goat milk.  Campylobacter jejuni was isolated from the environment of the cattle dairy farm.

Many outbreaks of Campylobacter have occurred from the consumption of raw milk.  Raw milk can contain many harmful bacteria and some viruses that can cause people to become extremely ill or even die.  Other harmful bacteria that may be found in raw milk include Listeriosis, Salmonellosis and E.coli 0157:H7.  The process of pasteurization, or heating a liquid to a hot enough temperature for a certain period of time, kills the harmful bacteria and viruses in the milk but still leaves the nutritional value.  These organisms are also found in the digestive tracts of many animals, including cows, goats, and other farm animals.  People can be exposed to these harmful organisms if they don’t wash their hands after having contact with fecal material or surfaces contaminated with fecal material from infected animals.  When visiting farms, be aware of the risk of drinking raw milk and always remember to wash your hands to prevent ingesting other harmful bacteria that can be found in raw milk and animals on the farm.

Please visit the following links for more information regarding campylobacteriosis:

Campylobacteriosis Fact Sheets and Information:

Campylobacteriosis Fact Sheet (38k.pdf) 
   Campylobacteriosis Hoja Informativa (43k.pdf)

External CampylobacteriosisResources:

Campylobacter Infection (CDC)

Campylobacteriosis Surveillance Data and Statistics:

Campylobacteriosis 2010 Surveillance Summary (24k.pdf)

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