21 sick from raw milk in Oregon; again ‘people missed the boat on one of the great advances in public health – pasteurization’

Oregon health officials suspect two more illnesses are part of a raw milk outbreak traced nearly three weeks ago to a farm near Wilsonville.

William Keene, senior epidemiologist with Oregon Public Health, told Lynne Terry of The Oregonian the two adults had both consumed raw milk from Foundation Farm, including one person who continued to drink it after being warned about the outbreak.

Keene said one was sickened by campylobacter, the other by cryptosporidium, making 21 likely cases in the outbreak. Nineteen others were infected with E. coli. One of the worst foodborne pathogens, E. coli O157:H7 was on rectal swabs from two of the farm’s four cows. Milk and manure from the farm also tested positive for the same bacteria.

State epidemiologists did not test for campylobacter or cryptosporidium so they don’t know for sure that the two new cases are linked to Foundation Farm milk, but Keene said it’s likely.

Cryptosporidium and campylobacter repeatedly turn up in raw milk, he said, along with other harmful bacteria.

Four children who drank the milk were hospitalized with acute kidney failure, which is associated with E. coli O157:H7. As of Friday, they were still in the hospital, Keene said.

Two of the patients — 14 and 13 — are Portland area middle schoolers. The others are 3 and 1 years old.

A fifth child from Lane County, who drank the milk while visiting relatives in the Portland area, was hospitalized and released.

"We’ve documented yet another unfortunate incident where people missed the boat on one of the great advances in public health — pasteurization," Keene said.

A table of raw milk related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/rawmilk.

17 sick, 4 kids hospitalized from raw milk at 4-cow Oregon operation

Lab tests confirmed Tuesday what Oregon health officials suspected: Raw milk from Foundation Farm near Wilsonville was contaminated with a deadly strain of E. coli.

The tests found E. coli O157:H7 in the milk, manure and the cows themselves, said Christine Stone, spokeswoman for Oregon Public Health.

Lynne Terry of The Oregonian reports at least 17 people are ill, including four children who’ve been hospitalized. Three of them are on kidney support.

Stone said multiple samples from Foundation Farm, including manure and rectal swabs from two of the cows tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. It also turned up in leftover milk.

Epidemiologists don’t always find pathogens in contaminated food because it’s never widespread in a product.

"The fact that it was found in the milk itself shows that it was probably contamination at a high level," said Dr. Katrina Hedberg, state epidemiologist.

The farm, located on 17 acres, has four Jersey dairy cows, three that are lactating. It sold to 48 households through a herd-share program in which customers bought part of the herd. Oregon health officials have interviewed most of the families.

The Salyers, who own the farm, have sold raw milk for at least a year. The Salyers have made no public comment. They’ve taken down contact information from a website and they’ve not returned calls seeking comment.