Oregon E. coli outbreak sickens Clark County resident

Boy among 18 people who drank raw milk from dairy

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

Updated: April 17, 2012, 6:48 PM

 

An E. coli outbreak linked to raw milk from a farm near Wilsonville has sickened 18 people, including a Clark County child.

Oregon Public Health officials have confirmed five cases of E. coli, all in children younger than 15 years old. Four of the children have been hospitalized, three with acute kidney failure, a complication associated with E. coli, according to health officials.

Thirteen other people have reported having diarrhea, but the cases haven’t been lab-confirmed as E. coli. All of the sickened people consumed raw unpasteurized milk from Foundation Farm in Clackamas County, according to Oregon health officials.

A Clark County boy who is younger than 11 is among those who became ill after consuming the milk, said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County Health Officer. Melnick didn’t provide more specific information about the boy in order to protect his identity.

The boy had diarrhea and other symptoms consistent with E. coli. Those symptoms have since resolved, Melnick said.

The local lab found the boy tested positive for E. coli. The state lab is confirming those results, Melnick said.

The other children and adult who were sickened live in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties in Oregon.

Oregon health officials announced Tuesday that samples taken from Foundation Farm cows, manure and surfaces, as well as raw milk from a farm customer, were positive for E. coli O157:H7.

The dairy distributed milk to 48 families that were part of a herd-share program in which people contract to take ownership of a portion of a herd or individual animals, according to Oregon Public Health.

Oregon law prohibits the sale of raw milk in stores or at farmers markets but allows sales on certain farms. Federal regulations prohibit transporting raw milk across state lines.

The farm voluntarily ceased distribution of its raw milk once people started getting sick, according to health officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that raw milk can be contaminated with listeria, salmonella and other bacteria. Pasteurized milk is heated to kill bacteria.

“Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria that can make you very sick or kill you,” said Dr. Katrina Hedberg, Oregon state epidemiologist. “Pasteurized milk has many health benefits. Raw milk is not any healthier than pasteurized milk and can carry illness-causing bacteria.”

Melnick reiterated the warnings, calling raw milk “inherently dangerous” and unsafe for consumption.

“This is not controversial ... in terms of science,” Melnick said. “The reality is raw milk is dangerous. Pasteurization has been around for a long time and for good reason.”

Oregon Public Health, the Oregon Department of Agriculture and local health departments are continuing the investigation into the Foundation Farm outbreak.

In 2005, an E. coli outbreak was linked to raw milk distributed from a Woodland dairy. Dee Creek Dairy distributed contaminated unpasteurized milk that sickened at least 18 people in the Vancouver-Portland area. Of those who were sickened, 15 were children. Five of the kids were hospitalized and two were placed on life support due to life-threatening infection.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.