Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services say that unpasteurized (raw) milk served at a potluck team meal is the likely cause of a Campylobacter outbreak that sickened close to a couple dozen Durand High School football players and coaches this past month.
At least 22 members of the football team were sickened after attending a team dinner on Thursday, Sept. 18. State and county health officials investigating the outbreak had compiled a list of all food and drink they had consumed, and raw milk was apparently on the list.
Subsequent lab tests revealed that the bacteria causing the illnesses was Campylobacter jejuni, which is often found in the digestive systems of poultry and cattle and in animal feces.
State health officials interviewed all members of the football team and the coaching staff to determine what activities, foods and beverages, or anything else they may have commonly been exposed to before being sickened. Those interviews revealed that raw milk consumption was the only food item associated with the illnesses.
Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection collected manure samples from the farm where the raw milk was produced, and the test results showed that the bacteria causing the illnesses among those who drank the raw milk was the same strain found on the farm.
Campylobacter is a bacteria which causes gastrointestinal symptom including diarrhea (possibly bloody), cramping and fever within two to five days of exposure. Symptoms typically last about a week, although some of those infected do not exhibit symptoms.
Confirmed Campylobacter cases are usually associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry or meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items. Other exposures can come from unpasteurized dairy products and contaminated water, produce or animals. Exposure is also possible from person-to-person, although that is less common.