Kenai Peninsula infection tied to raw milk on the rise

The number of residents sick from an infection tied to raw-milk consumption has jumped in a week from four to 18 cases on the Kenai Peninsula, according to a state department of health press release.

Two of the illnesses have required hospitalization and the department expects the number of confirmed infection cases to rise, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Section of Epidemiology document.

The infection, campylobacter, can cause diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and fever after two to five days of consuming raw milk and can last for longer than a week.

The illness, caused from fecal contamination of the cow’s raw milk, can threaten the lives of young children and those with compromised immune systems, according to the document.

All cases have been tied to a Peninsula-based dairy farm that operates a cow-share program. The farm distributes to the Peninsula, Anchorage and Sitka.

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 can also 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.

— Staff Report

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