Four cases of Salmonella infection in Texas since November are linked to unpasteurized milk, the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday.
Three of the four people have a connection to one Texas dairy farm, and raw milk sold at the farm tested positive for the same rare type of Salmonella matching the outbreak strain, department director Zachary Thompson said in a news release.
Local media reports say three of those sickened were children.
Dallas Country, which investigated the illnesses, said it has reported the four Salmonella cases to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The county health department issued its alert about the outbreak on the same day state lawmakers held a hearing on bills to ease restrictions on the sale of raw milk.
Texas currently limits the sale of unpasteurized milk to the farms where it is produced. The proposed legislation would expand sales to farmers’ markets, food co-ops and other sites.
In the outbreak alert, Dr. Steven Harris, medical director for the Dallas County health department, advised that “the public should avoid consuming raw milk products because of the risk for potentially deadly bacterial infections.”
Three of the people who became sick in Texas after drinking unpasteurized milk had such severe illnesses they required hospitalization. All have recovered, according to the county health department.
WFAA-TV of Dallas/Fort Worth identified one of the case patients as 57-year-old Mary Chiles of Dallas. Chiles told the news station she was still weak, and her health much worse than before, after being hospitalized for six days and then recovering for another nine days in a nursing home.
Chiles said she drank a small glass of raw milk nearly two months ago, prompted by a friend who told her unpasteurized milk might improve her health. Instead, she spiked a fever that reached 105 degrees and suffered a life-threatening infection she described as “unbelievable.”
Chiles said she will never drink raw milk again. “It’s not worth taking the chance,” she told News 8 reporter Janet St. James. “It’s like Russian roulette to me.”