Real Raw Milk Facts

Michigan: Three Cases Of Q fever Linked To Raw Milk Sold By Dairy Herd Share

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) warns the public about the potential health risks from consuming raw milk or raw milk products following 3 cases of Q fever (Coxiella burnetii) linked to a herd share.

News Release from MDCH

Recently three Michigan residents who reported consuming raw milk were diagnosed with Q fever. They each acknowledged obtaining raw milk from a Livingston County farm, where they participate in a dairy herd share program. Herd or cow share programs are where members own part of a cow and in return receive raw dairy products. These programs are not inspected or regulated under Michigan’s dairy laws, and these products are not available at retail stores.

Q fever is caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii. This organism is common in farm animals such as cattle, sheep and goats. Infected animals shed the organism in their urine, feces, milk and birthing fluids.

People become infected when they have contact with infected animals or their environment by inhaling airborne organisms, having contact with birth fluids and excretions of infected animals, or consuming raw milk.

“The public should be aware that raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products have not been heat treated and, therefore, pose a potentially serious risk to human health,” said Dr. Dean Sienko, interim chief medical executive for MDCH. “Unpasteurized milk and dairy products may contain many types of disease-causing germs, such as E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter.”

A total of three cases of Q fever have been reported – two in Washtenaw County and one in Monroe County. All three individuals are women in their 30s or 40s. One of the individuals required prolonged hospitalization for Q fever meningitis.

Q fever, a reportable communicable disease in Michigan, can cause acute and chronic illness in people. Acute symptoms typically develop within two-three weeks after exposure. Typical symptoms include high fevers (up to 104-105F), severe headache, joint and body aches, fatigue, chills/sweats, non-productive cough, chest pain, nausea and vomiting. Most people recover, but some can develop more serious illness including pneumonia and inflammation of other organs including the liver, heart and central nervous system. Those most at risk for severe disease include pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals and anyone who has heart valve damage or a blood vessel graft.

People can prevent infection by avoiding contact with infected animals and their environments and by only consuming pasteurized milk and milk products. Raw milk is a product that has not been treated to kill bacteria that can cause illness. Pasteurization is the process where milk is heated briefly in order to kill any bacteria that might be present.

Original press release available here.

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Several families offered to share their stories on video to help raise awareness about the potential risks and negative effects on health from drinking contaminated raw milk.

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