When Brianna Winnekins, 18, was admitted to Chippewa Valley Hospital in Durand Sept. 22, her parents, Karla and Brian, had no idea what was causing her symptoms, which included a 105-degree fever.
It didn’t take long before more Durand High School students — all associated with the football team — began being admitted to the hospital and a link was made between the illness and a team dinner at a Durand church Sept. 18.
On Oct. 24, State Department of Health Services officials announced raw milk served at a potluck team meal likely caused the outbreak of illness among Durand High School football players, managers and coaches in September.
The outbreak affected 38 members of the football team who attended the team dinner on Sept. 18. Testing performed at the State Lab of Hygiene and area labs and clinics confirmed that the illness was caused by Campylobacter jejuni bacteria.
As part of the investigation, state DHS officials interviewed all of the football team members and coaching staff to assess illnesses and ask questions about activities, foods, water sources and possible causes of the illness. They discovered the consumption of raw milk was the only commonality among them that could cause the illness.
The team meal and drinks were provided by a group of team parents, said Karla Winnekins. Winnekins said her daughter was not aware that the milk she was drinking was raw milk.
“Our daughter said, had she known it was raw milk, she would not have drank it,” Winnekins said.
Karla Winnekins is more pointed in her opinion of whether raw milk should have been available at the team function.
While this is the first time students and coaches associated with the Durand football team have gotten sick from drinking raw milk, Winnekins said this is likely not the first time raw milk has been served at a team dinner.
“It’s scary,” Winnekins said. “I’ve read the good about raw milk, and I’ve read the bad. But just because something has been done in the past and it has turned out OK doesn’t make it right.”