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Four sickened by raw milk, state health department says

Casey Grove

State health workers are looking into several cases of bacterial infection on the Kenai Peninsula related to drinking raw, unpasteurized milk.

According to the state Department of Health and Social Services, four people who consumed the milk came down with similar symptoms, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. The milk, which was not heated up to kill bacteria in it, came from an Alaska farm cooperative, but the DHSS is not identifying the source publicly, department spokesman Greg Wilkinson.

Because the milk was not sold at a store and not widely available, it's unlikely other members of the public are in danger, Wilkinson said. Still, milk drinkers should be aware of the risk, he said.

Proponents of drinking raw milk say it is more nutritious and tastes better than pasteurized milk. In general, health officials caution against the practice because of the higher risk of developing a bacterial infection. The risks have been known for hundreds of years, but thousands of Americans are still sickend each year after drinking raw milk, according to the DHSS.

Each of the four cases the DHSS's Section of Epidemiology is investigating involved Campylobacter bacteria, Wilkinson said.

"It was the connecting factor between all four cases, and all four cases came back positive for the same strain of Campylobacter," he said. "It's the first time this strain has been seen in Alaska. The chance of this being a coincidence is very slim."

The state epidemiologists ask that anyone with symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, cramps and fever after drinking raw milk call them at 269-8000 or toll free at 1-800-478-084.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.


By CASEY GROVE
casey.grove@adn.com