New Mexico parasite infection outbreak linked to raw milk

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For the first time since CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report last year documented two siblings with cryptosporidiosis associated with raw milk consumption, a state is blaming an invasion of the microscopic parasites on raw milk.

New Mexico officials want people to dump raw milk, warning the Cryptosporidium parasite causes a diarrheal disease known as cryptosporidiosis.

New Mexico has confirmed six new cases of “Crypto” since Aug. 31. The state put its departments of health, agriculture and environment to work investigating where the parasites are coming from.

All the victims are from Bernalillo County, and all drank raw milk before being infected with the parasites. Epidemiologists, laboratory staff and inspectors are still working to narrow down the exact source, but the state has been warning the public about raw milk since Sept. 15.

“Raw milk products may be contaminated with a variety of infectious pathogens,” New Mexico Secretary of Health Lynn Gallagher said in a public notice. “We are particularly concerned about the very young, the elderly and others with compromised immune systems who may develop more severe illnesses if exposed to contaminated raw milk products.”

New Mexico health officials are advising that anyone with raw milk in their refrigerators should discard it to prevent infection. Any products made from raw milk should also be viewed as a health danger, the state warns.

Raw milk is any milk that has not gone through pasteurization, a heating process to destroy potentially harmful bacteria, including Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella and Cryptosporidium.

The Crypto parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside a host body for some time. It is very tolerant of chlorine disinfection. There are numerous strains of Crypto that can infect animals and a few that can infect humans.

Water, including drinking and recreational water, is the most common way for the parasite to spread. It is the leading cause of waterborne disease in the United States, where some of the larger outbreaks have been at swimming pools and splash parks in Southwestern states.

Besides diarrhea, symptoms include stomach cramps or pain, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever and weight loss. New Mexico health officials say anyone experiencing those symptoms should get to a medical doctor for treatment, especially if they have consumed raw milk.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Feb. 27, 2015, said unpasteurized, raw milk was the source of two Cryptosporidiosis cases in August 2014 that were linked to a state-licensed dairy in Idaho. The report said the cases showed how infrequently cryptosporidium in raw milk is considered.

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