Vol. 11, No. 1
Jan. 2019

CDC issues alert for Brucella in raw milk

Jan. 28, 2019 --

Health officials in New York and Pennsylvania are investigating a case of Brucella RB51 that may be connected to raw, unpasteurized milk distributed by Miller's Biodiversity Farm in Quarryville, Penn. The departments of public health in both states are coordinating their efforts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC issues alert for Brucella in raw milk

In a health advisory issued Jan. 23, the CDC said a New York resident who drank raw milk purchased from the Pennsylvania “private food club” was diagnosed in November 2018 with the RB51 strain of Brucella. The strain is resistant to rifampin and penicillin usually used to treat the infection. Milk samples from Miller's Biodiversity tested positive for the same strain.

As of Jan. 22, people in 19 states, including Iowa, have been affected by the suspect milk. The states are Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia.

“Ingestion of raw milk poses a significant risk of disease or even death,” said SHL Director Mike Pentella. “There have been several recent outbreaks of disease associated with consumption of raw milk. Even healthy animals can carry disease-causing organisms, and you can’t detect it by looking at the animal or the milk. Pasteurization has been an effective method to prevent disease since the 1880s and is still critical today to protect us.”

Brucellosis infections can be associated with miscarriage. Common symptoms are fever, sweats, malaise, anorexia, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain, as well as more serious complications.

Brucellosis is caused by Brucella, bacteria that can be spread by infected animals, including cattle, goats, sheep, dogs and others. Pasteurization of raw milk can kill Brucella bacteria.

From 1993 through 2012, 127 outbreaks were linked to raw milk, causing more 1,900 illnesses and 144 hospitalizations. Most of these outbreaks were caused by Campylobacter, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or Salmonella. All of them could have been prevented by pasteurization.

When brucellosis is the suspected diagnosis, the laboratory should be notified by the healthcare provider so that appropriate safety precautions can be immediately implemented. These precautions include all microbiology work should be performed inside the biosafety cabinet. Laboratory acquired infections caused by Brucella have commonly been reported. If a laboratory suspects Brucella, they should immediately contact the State Hygienic Laboratory for confirmatory testing.