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Campylobacter Blog

Surveillance & Analysis on Campylobacter News & Outbreaks

California Campylobacter Outbreak

Solano Health Department reports that a Mexican restaurant in Fairfield, California has been closed since Wednesday while an investigation continues into 32 confirmed cases of Campylobacter infection. Alejandro’s Taqueria on Texas Street in downtown Fairfield is to remain shut down until revised operations meet with approval from county health officials.

According to Deputy Health Officer Dr. Michael Stacey, Solano County has received an unusually high number of reports of abdominal illness this month.

“There have been increased reports of laboratory-confirmed campylobacteriosis since the beginning of June,” he stated. “So far, 32 campylobacter cases have been reported to us this month, almost double the number of reported cases that we had for the whole month of June in 2015.” A number of those people said they had eaten at Alejandro’s from May 26-29, according to health department reports, making the timeline for potential illness a few days before and after that period.

County health officials are not certain what food item might have caused the illnesses. They are still checking samples of cooked foods taken from the restaurant on June 8 and also continuing to investigate the reports of those sickened.

According to a health alert sent out June 6 by the Solano County Public Health Department, the most common sources of Campylobacter are the infected feces of animals or people, unpasteurized milk, and contaminated poultry, meat, water or other food products.

Infection with Campylobacter bacteria typically causes diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism. The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The illness typically lasts about one week.

Some infected people do not have any symptoms but can transmit the illness to others. In those with compromised immune systems, Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life-threatening infection.

Raw milk can harbor Campylobacter even after negative tests

Raw milk can harbor dangerous bacteria, even when routine testing results show it to be uncontaminated, says a report from Utah on a 2014 outbreak of confirmed or suspected campylobacteriosis in 99 individuals. The report appears in today’s issue of Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The outbreak began in May 2014 with three patients who tested positive on pulsed field gel electrophoresis for Campylobacter jejuni. They had all consumed raw milk from an unnamed dairy in Weber County in northern Utah. The dairy’s routine testing, which is required monthly of dairies selling raw milk in Utah and consists of somatic cell and coliform counts, had yielded results within acceptable levels (<400,000 somatic cells/mL and <10 coliform colony forming units/mL).

Enhanced testing after the illnesses were identified showed C jejuni in the dairy’s milk.

Officials suspended the dairy’s permit in August and then reinstated it Oct 1 after follow-up cultures were negative. However, seven more C jejuni cases occurred by Nov 4, and the permit was permanently revoked Dec 1.

It total, 99 people in Utah, 85 (86%) of them from northern counties, were identified through lab testing and patient interviews as having confirmed (59) or probable (40) cases of campylobacteriosis from May 9 to Nov 6, 2014. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 74 years; 10 were hospitalized, and 1 died.

Of the 98 patients for whom exposure history was available, 53 reported drinking raw milk, 52 of them milk from the Weber Country dairy; 4 drank raw milk but could not name the dairy where it was purchased, and 14 bought raw milk at the dairy but did not report drinking it.

The authors point out that “Current raw milk testing standards do not readily detect contamination.” They recommend more education of consumers about the dangers associated with consuming unpasteurized milk, and they conclude, “The safest alternative is to consume pasteurized milk.”

Blair Academy and Campylobacter

Campulobacter_406x250About 30 people were recently sickened by Campylobacter at Blair Academy, reports the New Jersey Herald. The school is a private boarding and day school for high school students located in Blairstown, NJ.

“In mid-November, our health center saw an increased incidence of gastrointestinal-related illness and we alerted all parents by email on November 20 prior to students leaving campus for Thanksgiving break,” Suzy Logan, a spokesperson for the school, told the newspaper in an emailed statement. “Late that weekend, we found out that several of those who experienced symptoms tested positive for Campylobacter. Upon receiving confirmation of several positive results, our director of health services informed the parents of those affected by phone and updated our entire parent body by email the next day.”

Logan said all affected students have recovered. The source of the illnesses has not yet been identified.

Campylobacter in California Raw Milk

Raw milk produced by Organic Pastures Dairy of Fresno County with a code date of OCT 24 is the subject of a statewide recall and quarantine order announced by California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones.  The quarantine order followed the confirmed detection of campylobacter bacteria in raw whole milk.  No illnesses have been reported at this time.

Under the recall, Organic Pastures Dairy brand Grade-A raw milk labeled with a code date of OCT 24 is to be pulled immediately from retail shelves, and consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any product remaining in their refrigerators.

CDFA inspectors found the bacteria as a result of product testing conducted as part of routine inspection and sample collection at the facility.

According to the California Department of Public Health, symptoms of campylobacteriosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. Most people with campylobacteriosis recover completely.  Illness usually occurs 2 to 5 days after exposure to campylobacter and lasts about a week.  The illness is usually mild and some people with campylobacteriosis have no symptoms at all.  However, in some persons with compromised immune systems, it can cause a serious, life-threatening infection.  A small percentage of people may have joint pain and swelling after infection.  In addition, a rare disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome that causes weakness and paralysis can occur several weeks after the initial illness.

Three Kids Linked to Raw Goat Milk Campylobacter Outbreak

Orange County has confirmed three cases of campylobacteriosis infection associated with consumption of raw goat milk distributed by Claravale Farm of San Benito County, California.  All three patients are young children less than 5 years of age.  One patient was hospitalized, and all of them are expected to recover.

The raw goat milk was distributed throughout the state, and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is leading an investigation to determine if there are additional cases.  While the CDPH investigation is ongoing the Health Care Agency advises against consuming Claravale Farm raw goat milk.

There is always a risk of illness associated with consumption of raw, or unpasteurized, milk products.  The risk of getting sick from drinking raw milk is greatest for infants and young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer or HIV/AIDS. But, it is important to remember that healthy people of any age can get very sick if they drink raw milk contaminated with harmful germs.

Campylobacteriosis is an infectious disease caused by the Campylobacter bacteria. Outbreaks of Campylobacter disease have most often been associated with unpasteurized dairy products, contaminated water, poultry, and produce. Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism.

73% of British Chickens Have Campylobacter At Retail

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-raw-chickens-supermarket-image33900426After a year of testing store-bought chicken in the United Kingdom for Campylobacter, the Food Standards Agency there has published the results — and they’re pretty dismal.

More than 4,000 samples of fresh whole chilled chickens and packaging were collected between February 2014 and February 2015, and 73 percent of the chickens tested positive for the presence of Campylobacter.

Nineteen percent of chickens tested above the highest category of contamination levels (more than 1,000 colony-forming units per gram), while 7 percent of packages also tested positive for Campylobacter.

Campylobacter is a foodborne bacteria largely associated with chicken which causes diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping. It’s also the biggest cause of food poisoning in the U.K.

In breaking down contamination rates by retailer, FSA found that none had met the target for reducing Campylobacter. Asda had the highest rate of Campylobacter contamination at 80 percent of chicken samples, as well as the most samples (30 percent) with more than 1,000 colony-forming units per gram.

Tesco was the only main retailer with a lower rate of chicken contamination at the highest level compared to the industry average.

Raw Milk Linked to Campylobacter Illnesses

In 2012 Claravale Farms was linked to 22 Campylobacter illnesses by CDPH.

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith today warned consumers that the consumption of unpasteurized (raw) dairy products may cause serious illness. Six Northern California residents have recently been diagnosed with campylobacteriosis, a bacterial infection that can come from consuming contaminated raw milk.

A recent investigation conducted by CDPH identified multiple bottles of Claravale Farm raw milk that tested positive for Campylobacter. Under the direction of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Claravale Farm has initiated a recall of the affected product. (See CDFA Announces Recall of Raw Milk Products at Claravale Farm of San Benito County news release.)

Campylobacteriosis may cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting within two to five days after exposure to the organism.  Illness can last for up to a week or more and can be especially severe for those who have weakened or compromised immune systems, and for young children and the elderly. Although most people who get campylobacteriosis recover completely, some patients do suffer long-term effects, including arthritis and paralysis.

Raw milk is milk from cows, goats, sheep, or other animals that has not been pasteurized (heat treated) to kill harmful germs. A wide variety of germs that can make people sick have been found in raw milk, such as Brucella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Mycobacterium bovis, Salmonella, and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, including E. coli O157. E. coli O157 can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a sometimes deadly cause of anemia and potentially permanent kidney failure. Raw milk contaminated with disease-causing bacteria does not smell or look any different from uncontaminated raw milk, and there is no easy way for the consumer to know whether the raw milk is contaminated.

Over the past decade, CDPH, other states, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have investigated numerous outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with consumption of raw milk and raw milk products. These have included outbreaks of illnesses due to Campylobacter, E. coli O157:H7, and Salmonella.  Many involved young children. Illnesses associated with raw milk continue to occur.

Although the sale of raw milk from some dairies is legal in California, CDPH does not recommend drinking raw milk or raw milk products or giving raw milk, colostrum, raw cream or other raw milk products to children. Raw milk products sold in California are required to carry a warning label:

“WARNING: Raw (unpasteurized) milk and raw milk dairy products may contain disease-causing microorganisms. Persons at highest risk of disease from these organisms include newborns and infants; the elderly; pregnant women; those taking corticosteroids, antibiotics or antacids; and those having chronic illnesses or other conditions that weaken their immunity.”

Consumers experiencing any ill effects after consuming raw dairy products should consult their health care provider.

Campylobacter Risk: Raw Milk Recalled

Raw milk, raw nonfat milk and raw cream produced by Claravale Farm of San Benito County are the subject of a statewide recall and quarantine order announced by California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones.  The quarantine order came following the confirmed detection of campylobacter bacteria in Claravale Farm’s raw milk and raw cream from samples collected and tested by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any product remaining in their refrigerators with code dates of “MAR 28” and earlier, and retailers are to pull those products immediately from their shelves.

CDPH found the campylobacter bacteria in samples collected as part of an investigation of illnesses that may have been associated with Claravale Farm raw milk.  No illnesses have been definitively attributed to the products at this time.  However, CDPH is continuing its epidemiological investigation of reported clusters of campylobacter illness where consumption of raw milk products may have occurred.

According to CDPH, symptoms of campylobacteriosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever.  Most people with camplylobacteriosis recover completely.  Illness usually occurs 2 to 5 days after exposure to campylobacter and lasts about a week.  The illness is usually mild and some people with campylobacteriosis have no symptoms at all.  However, in some persons with compromised immune systems, it can cause a serious, life-threatening infection.  A small percentage of people may have joint pain and swelling after infection.  In addition, a rare disease called Guillian-Barre syndrome that causes weakness and paralysis can occur several weeks after the initial illness.

Raw Milk Campylobacter Recall in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has warned consumers who bought raw milk from Apple Valley Creamery in Adams County to immediately discard it due to Campylobacter contamination found in a recent sample.

The dairy is located along the 500 block of Germany Road in East Berlin.

The raw milk sample was collected from the farm Jan. 28 during required routine sampling by a commercial laboratory and later tested positive for the bacteria.

Apple Valley Creamery sells directly to customers at an on-farm retail store and through home delivery services. Several retail facilities in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties also carry the creamery’s products. The packaged raw milk is sold under the Apple Valley Creamery label in half gallon and quart glass containers with the sell-by dates of Feb. 9 and Feb. 11. It is labeled as “raw milk.”

Apple Valley Creamery also bottles pasteurized milk. This notice does not affect the pasteurized milk bottled by the creamery.

Agriculture officials have ordered the owner of the dairy to stop the sale of all raw milk until further notice. Multiple samples must test negative before the farm can resume raw milk sales.

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized.

Pennsylvania law allows farms to sell raw milk but requires the farms to be permitted and inspected by the agriculture department to reduce health risks associated with unpasteurized products. There are 150 farms in Pennsylvania permitted to sell raw milk or raw milk cheese.

Symptoms of Campylobacter include fever, abdominal pain and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear within 1-7 days after consumption.

70% of UK Tainted with Campylobacter – Not that Different in US

The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) released its “Name and Shame” Report this morning.  The idea of testing retail chicken and publishing the results had been the focus of much discussion over the last few months.  Some UK retailers were not very happy that the public would actually know how tainted the chicken really is.

If this had been the US equivalent, FSIS, we would be wondering why would the report be released on Thanksgiving Day.  My guess is that in the UK Thanksgiving does not have the same meaning as it does over here.

Retailers had tried to block the study’s release.

Well, back to the study; Campylobacter was found in 70 per cent of chicken tested up from 59 per cent of chickens in August.  Almost a fifth of all chickens (18 per cent) tested positive for Campylobacter above the highest level of contamination, while six per cent of packaging tested positive – a rise of four per cent since August.

The FSA also revealed that Asda sold the highest percentage of chickens contaminated with the bug.  Campylobacter was present in 78 per cent of chickens from the supermarket, with 28 per cent above the highest level of contamination.

Packaging testing showed 12 per cent was contaminated.  Don’t forget the recent “chicken juice” report.

Almost three-quarters of chickens (73 per cent) sold by the Co-operative tested positive, followed by Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose (69 per cent), Marks & Spencer (67 per cent) and Tesco (64 per cent).

Perhaps it is time to redo our 2011 testing of contamination levels in chicken purchased in Seattle.  Here were some of the results:

The study showed that up to 80% of Seattle area raw chicken could be contaminated with some form of potentially harmful bacteria.

Testing done by IEH Laboratories in Lake Forest Park, Washington showed that 80 of 100 raw chickens purchased at various Seattle area grocery stores contained at least one potentially harmful pathogen.

The test was comprised of 18 brands of chicken purchased at 18 different Seattle area stores including chain grocery stores, Safeway (3 locations), Albertsons (2), QFC (4), Fred Meyer (2), Thriftway (1); warehouse clubs Costco (2) and Sam’s Club (1); natural foods stores Whole Foods (1) and PCC (1), and one small market, Ken’s Market (1).

In the study local and organic chicken did not prove to be safer than other samples. In terms of origination, 59 chicken samples originated from Washington, while 13 samples came from other states and 28 were of unknown origin. Regardless of place, chicken from every state tested was confirmed to contain potentially harmful bacteria.  Of the 14 samples of organic chicken 12 contained harmful bacteria.

The study tested for five pathogens.  While some findings were typical, other results were more surprising.  Previous studies have found on average that 33 to 53% of chicken is contaminated with Campylobacter.  In Seattle 65% of the chicken tested positive for Campylobacter.  Salmonella was isolated in 19% of the chicken purchased at retail stores in the Seattle area, slightly higher than the expected average of 16%.  Staphylococcus aureus was found in 42% of the chicken sampled; 10 of these samples were Methicillan-resistant, commonly known as MRSA.  One sample cultured positive for Listeria monocytogenes and one sample cultured positive for E. coli O26, a bacteria often found in beef.

Campylobacter:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Campylobacter outbreaks. The Campylobacter lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Campylobacter and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Campylobacter lawyers have litigated Campylobacter cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as raw milk and municipal water.