An epidemiologist with the Columbia-Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services in central Missouri has confirmed with Food Safety News that three cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection in Boone County share raw milk as a common potential source of contamination.
The three illnesses are part of a five-person outbreak currently under investigation by the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services. Two of the victims, a 2-year-old in Boone County and a 17-month-old from another county, are hospitalized and have both developed symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a kidney disease that sometimes results from severe E. coli infection.
While raw milk is currently a common link between the Boone County victims, epidemiologist Sarah Rainey said she did not know if the two victims from other counties had also consumed raw milk. A spokesperson for the state health department has not returned a call asking for more information, but Rainey said they have not yet singled out any food as the definite cause.
“Even just in the three cases we have, we really have not determined the cause,” she said. “Did they consume raw milk as one of the risk factors? Yes, but that alone does not definitively link them to raw milk.”
Rainey said she could not confirm the other counties involved in the outbreak, saying the investigation was now largely in the hands of the state health department.
The five reported cases have onset dates ranging from late March to early April. The Boone County victims range in age from 2 to 31 years.
In April 2008, an E. coli outbreak in Missouri linked to raw milk from Olive Autumn Farms sickened four people and resulted in one case of HUS.