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Raw Milk in Michigan Linked to Q Fever

A Michigan woman endured prolonged hospitalization for Q-fever meningitis and two other women were also diagnosed with bacterial Q-fever infections after they drank unpasteurized milk from a farm in Livingston County, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.

All three women, in their 30s and 40s, acknowledged obtaining raw milk from the farm as part of a herd share arrangement, according to a report in the Kalamazoo Gazette.

As a result of the three cases of Q fever, the Michigan health department of this week issued a warning about the dangers of consuming unpasteurized milk. Herd share schemes, in which participants pay for a share in a cow or goat in return for unpasteurized milk, are “not inspected or regulated under Michigan’s dairy laws,” the statement noted. Raw milk products are not permitted to be sold at retail in Michigan.

Q-fever is a communicable disease caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnettii, an organism common in farm animals. But while such bacterial infections are common among cow, goat and sheep herds — one national study estimated that at times 90 percent of dairy herds can carry the germs — human cases of Q fever are rare.

Infected animals shed the organism in their manure, urine and milk and people can become infected when they drink milk that has not been heat-treated to kill such pathogens or breathe contaminated barnyard dust.

Health departments in Washington and Montana are investigating human cases of Q fever said to be linked not to raw milk but to inhalation of barnyard dust particles contaminated by infected goats, according to a report in the Spokesman-Review.

The illness has sickened six people in Washington’s Grant County, where health department officials say there hasn’t been a human case of Q fever for 25 years. The problem began at a farm that breeds and sells goats, according to the state Department of Agriculture, and infected goats from that farm have now been traced to nine other counties.


Q fever is also the probable cause of six illnesses in Montana. The Montana goats believed responsible for that outbreak are linked to the Washington herd, an agriculture department spokesman said.

Although the infected goats were not milking goats, but were being raised for show and possibly for meat, Washington agriculture officials said that as a precaution they have increased testing at farms that handle and bottle unpasteurized goat milk.

Jason Kelly, communications director for the state’s Department of Agriculture, said Washington requires annual herd-health testing for raw milk dairies and for animals that are about to join a milking herd. The tests have turned up Q fever before, “which is not surprising given the bacteria’s high prevalence in cows, goats and sheep,” Kelly said in an email. Animals that test positive must be treated before they are allowed to be milked, he added.

Only about one half of all people infected with Q fever show immediate signs of illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of Q fever, which is a reportable disease, include high fevers (up to 105-105 F), severe headache, joint and body aches, fatigue, chills/sweats, non-productive cough, chest pain, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Although most people with Q fever recover, complications can include pneumonia, hepatitis, inflammation of the heart tissue and central nervous system. Pregnant woman may be at risk for miscarriage.

Left untreated, Q fever can lead to chronic illness that can affect a person’s heart, liver, brain and lungs and may be fatal.

Less than 5 percent of patients develop chronic Q fever, which can occur within six weeks after infection or even years later. A post-Q fever fatigue syndrome has been reported to occur in 10 to 25 percent of patients.

© Food Safety News
  • KAL

    Multiple pathogens, including Q fever, have been associated with development of chronic fatigue syndrome. Like the common cold and hepatitis, CFS appears to be triggered by multiple pathogens.
    A 2006 CDC study, which included patients who had contracted Q fever, found that the severity of the initial infection rather than psychological factors or a specific microbe was the key to development of CFS.
    Although the research criteria for CFS requires six months duration of symptoms, most clinicians believe it can be diagnosed after a month.
    Many ME/CFS experts believe the severity of the post exertional exhaustion lasting more than 24-hours, unrelieved by rest and upon minimal exertion, in addition to other symptoms, is the key to a differential diagnosis.

  • As a dairy farmer, consumer, and mother, I cannot stress enough the importance of consuming pastuerized dairy products. Pastuerization is the only safe way to consume dairy, period. Pastuerized dairy products are the only dairy products consumed in our home, and we have a tank full of yummy, nutritious milk in our barn every day! My entire family takes part in our farm, it is our livlihood. We love what we do. We love our cows. We love taking part in feeding America. We know what a huge responsibility this is, and how much trust Americans put in our family and all the other farm families across the country to feed their family. Every day we strive to be better than we were the day before. Our number one goal is to provide American families, just like ours, with a high quality, safe, nutrient dense product they can feel good about feeding their family. There are very high standards we must meet to be able to have our dairy products sold to the public in stores, and we are upheld to those standards by a minimum of four random inspections per year. If we do not meet or exceed those standards, we lose our liscense, if we lose our liscense, we lose our way of life. No farmer wants to lose their way of life, because every farmer loves what they do, so we make sure to exceed the expectations of the standards imposed on us by the state and the cooperative we ship our milk with. If you are curious about life on the farm, please check out my facebook page, look up Dairy Mom, and you will find me. But, again, please, only consume pastuerized dairy products. We work as hard as we can every day to provide you with safe, nutritious, pastuerized dairy products, take advantage of that! 🙂

  • Michael

    Sorry but dairy products in general, and pasteurized milk specifically is an asthma trigger. Raw milk is not. The pasteurization process, along with eliminating the bad pathogens, also destroys beneficial bacteria, proteins and enzymes that aid in digestion. Raw milk is also more nutritional and it has the ability to strengthen the immune system. Pasteurized milk delivers none of these benefits. Dr. Joseph Mercola would disagree with you that raw milk is unsafe, and check out his website for more info at mercola.com. Nutritionist Shawn Stevenson would also disagree with you. I only purchase raw milk as my daughter is asthmatic, and I have seen a marked improvement in her condition since discontinuing cooked milk. Cooked milk is not the only asthma trigger, but it does contribute heavily with it’s mucous building properties.

  • Donna D’Antuono

    Thank you Michael for your comment. 🙂 I am an RN a mother of three and our family has always consumed raw milk for the last 20 years. Raw milk obtained from properly taken care of animals that have been pastured and cared for without vaccinations and fed a proper organic diet will rarely have the problems associated with conventional farming. GO RAW MILK!!!!