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Department for Public Health warns of dangers of consuming unpasteurized milk

Four children in North Central Kentucky experiencing E. coli symptoms

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 30, 2014) — The Kentucky Department for Public Health is warning consumers about the dangers of consuming unpasteurized milk as well as other products that could lead to disease-producing E. coli infection, following a recent outbreak in North Central Kentucky and the hospitalization of four children.

kyhealthThe children developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a disease caused by the most severe E. coli infections which may result in life-threatening kidney failure.

“At this time, we know that all of the children consumed unpasteurized milk, which is different from the milk and dairy products you purchase at the grocery store,” said DPH Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield, M.D. “Unpasteurized milk is dangerous and has not undergone a process to kill bacteria before it is consumed, meaning it could contain disease-causing agents such as E. coli. The health of anyone who drinks unpasteurized milk can be affected if they are exposed to E. coli or other bacteria that can cause very serious illness, but the risk is even greater for children.”

The sale of raw, unpasteurized milk is illegal in the state of Kentucky. However, individuals sometimes gain access to unpasteurized milk and consume the product despite the associated health risks.

According to DPH, children are more likely than adults to develop complications of E. coli infection, especially if they are younger than 5. Signs of an infection include diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. HUS only develops in a small percentage of children with E. coli infection, but is a serious health concern. The condition can cause seizures, altered mental states, confusion, fatigue, dehydration, neurological complications and kidney failure. Patients with severe kidney disease may require dialysis. Three to 5 percent of HUS cases result in death, according to the National Institutes of Health.