In a follow-up to a story last week, the campylobacter outbreak linked to the consumption of raw milk on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula has tripled since the last report, according to an Alaska Section of Epidemiology (SOE) health advisory Feb.22.
According to health authorities,a total of 18 individuals have been identified in this outbreak. This is up from six reported last week. Two patients required hospitalization for their illness.
The SOE says all the probable and confirmed cases have been linked to consumption of raw milk from a farm on the Kenai Peninsula that operates a cow-share program. The milk is distributed to shareholders throughout the Kenai Peninsula, in Anchorage, and in Sitka.
SOE is planning to contact individuals suspected of receiving or consuming raw milk from the yet unnamed farm, and it is expected that the number of probable and confirmed cases will rise.
What is Campylobacter? It is a bacterium that can in chicken, in healthy cattle, birds, raw milk, and contaminated water. Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items. Infants may get the infection by contact with poultry packages in shopping carts.
It is also possible to get infected from the feces of an infected pet cat or dog. It is the leading cause of bacterial diarrhea in the United States, more than Salmonella and Shigella combined.
It doesn’t take a lot of this organism to get you ill. Studies have showed that as little as 500 organisms can cause disease in some individuals. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says that you can get infected from one drop of juice from raw chicken meat.
Campylobacter jejuni, the species most often implicated in infection, causes diarrhea, which may be watery or sticky and can contain blood and white blood cells. Other symptoms often present are fever, abdominal pain, nausea, headache and muscle pain. The illness usually occurs 2-5 days after ingestion of the contaminated food or water. Illness generally lasts 7-10 days, but relapses are not uncommon (about 25 percent of cases).
There can be complications associated with campylobacteriosis; they include arthritis and neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome. It is estimated that the latter is seen in one out of every 1000 cases of Campylobacter.
Most cases of Campylobacter are self-limiting and do not require treatment. However, severe cases can be treated with antibiotics to shorten the length of the disease.
So how do you protect you and your family from this diarrheal disease? The following steps can be taken:
• In the supermarket, choose well-wrapped chicken, and put it in a plastic bag to keep juices from leaking.
• Store chicken at 40° F or below. If you won’t use it for a couple of days, freeze it.
• Thaw frozen chicken in a refrigerator (in its packaging and on a plate), or on a plate in a microwave oven. Cook chicken thawed in a microwave oven right away.
• Prevent cross contamination. Separate raw chicken from other foods. Immediately after preparing it, wash your hands with soap and water, and clean anything you or raw chicken touched.
• To kill harmful bacteria, cook chicken to at least 165° F.
• Don’t return cooked meat to the plate that held it raw.
• Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of cooking.
• Avoid drinking unpasteurized milk and contaminated surface water.
• Wash hands with soap and water after contact with pet feces.
For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page
Looking for a job in health care? Check here to see what’s available
To receive email updates of the latest infectious disease news and information, click the "subscribe" button at the top of the story