March 30, 2006
Since the first of the year, the Yakima Health District has seen a spike in the number of cases of a bacterial infection that causes stomach sickness.
Many of the 41 cases of campylobacteriosis so far this year might be tied to the consumption of unpasteurized milk and related cheese products, said Marianne Patnode, Communicable Disease Services coordinator at the health district.
By this time last year, only 21 people had reported having the bacterial illness characterized by diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever. Symptoms usually appear within two to five days of exposure to the organism and usually last about one week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In very rare cases it can be life-threatening, but it is not transmittable from person to person.
Campylobacteriosis is one of the most common types of diarrheal illnesses in the United States. While unpasteurized milk products are one potential source of campylobacter infections, consuming and handling raw or undercooked poultry or drinking contaminated water are other common causes.
The reported cases have involved people of all ages and races from across the county, but most of those associated with unpasteurized milk products have been in the lower Yakima Valley, Patnode said.
To avoid campylobacter infections, the CDC advises people not to consume unpasteurized milk, which is lawful to sell in Washington though illegal in 22 other states. People should also be sure to cook poultry thoroughly, wash hands after handling animals, avoid drinking contaminated water and wash kitchen utensils that come in contact with raw meat with hot soapy water, according to the CDC’s Web site.