By Madeline Farber
Published February 14, 2019
Residents in states across the country who drank raw, unpasteurized milk from a farm in Pennsylvania may have been exposed to a drug-resistant bacteria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week.
More specifically, federal health officials are “investigating potential exposures to Brucella strain RB51” in 19 states: 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.
RB51 is a strain of the Brucella abortus bacteria.
“This type of Brucella is resistant to first-line drugs and can be difficult to diagnose because of limited testing options and the fact that early brucellosis symptoms are similar to those of more common illnesses like flu,” the CDC said.
The milk in question came from Miller’s Biodiversity Farm in Quarryville, Penn. At least one case of the bacterial infection was confirmed in a New York resident in December after he or she drank unpasteurized milk that likely came from the farm, officials said.
On its website, Miller's says it's a “private food club” that “allows its members access to buying food directly from farms and other vendors, bypassing the supermarket."
A cow from the farm that tested positive for RB51 has since been “removed from the milking herd,” the CDC said.
Raw, unpasteurized milk can contain bacteria that can cause brucellosis, and a variety of other harmful diseases, such as listeriosis, salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, typhoid fever and tuberculosis, according to the New York Department of Health. Milk is pasteurized — heated to a certain temperature — to kill any harmful bacteria.
Specifically, symptoms of brucellosis include fever, sweats, weight loss, fatigue, joint pain and headache, among other signs.
The infection can result in serious complications for pregnant women, sometimes causing miscarriage. Those who are not treated for the infection can also develop serious health ailments, such as arthritis, heart problems, or an enlarged spleen or liver.
Though rare, brucellosis can also lead to meningitis, according to the CDC.
“People who last drank raw milk from this dairy more than six months ago and have had symptoms of brucellosis – but not been treated – should see their doctor immediately for testing that can determine if they are infected and need antibiotics to prevent long-term health problems caused by brucellosis,” the CDC added.