Raw milk identified as cause of campylobacteriosis outbreak in Utah

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Public health officials in Salt Lake County are investigating an outbreak associated with raw, unpasteurized milk.

The Salt Lake County Health Department has confirmed 14 people with infections from campylobacter. All but two of the patients reported drinking raw milk before becoming sick, according to a notice from the department.

The department reported that the patients range from 2 to 73 years old. One of them was hospitalized.

As of Wednesday, Oct. 11, the health department reported that the source of the raw milk had not been determined. The department is urging people only to drink milk that has been pasteurized. 

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and most state and local health departments also recommend against consuming unpasteurized raw milk and its products. Raw dairy products can contain pathogens like Listeria, E. coli, campylobacter, Salmonella, and hepatitis A. 

Contaminated raw milk and products made from it do not look, smell, or taste bad, and there is no way for consumers to detect pathogens in it. The CDC reports that there have been 25 outbreaks of Campylobacter linked to raw milk in the state since 2009, resulting in 295 people becoming ill.

It is illegal for retailers in Utah to sell raw milk. Farms that sell raw milk directly to consumers must have special licenses. 

Campylobacteriosis causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headaches, nausea, and vomiting, lasting a week or longer. It is hazardous for young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. Severe cases can lead to paralysis or death.

The Salt Lake County Health Department said if people who recently consumed raw milk are experiencing any of those symptoms, they should talk to their doctor. Specific tests are required to diagnose campylobacteriosis because its symptoms can mimic other illnesses.

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