Tennessee Children Treated For E. Coli Infection Possibly Linked To Raw Milk


Several young children in Tennessee were treated for E. coli infection that may be linked to the consumption of raw milk.

What is raw milk, and why does it cause illnesses?

E. Coli Infection In Tennessee

This past week, several young children at a Knox County day care center were sent to the hospital to be treated for E. coli infection. The first child to be infected got ill the previous week and was sent home, but that same day, three more children fell ill. None of the first to get ill were hospitalized.

Because of the illnesses, Kids Place Inc. closed the "Baby House,” where the young children shared the space with other toddlers below three years of age. Further, the day care center also immediately followed Knox County Health Department’s instructions on how to reduce the spread of E. coli, which includes a thorough cleaning of the facility, infection control education for the staff, closing the facility’s pool until June 18, submitting a written infection control plan in regard to animal exposure, and the completion of food and facilities inspections.

So far, the Knox County Health Department has lifted the closure order for Kids Place, but the Tennessee Department of Human Services is not yet prepared to let the children back to the facility.

E. Coli From Raw Milk?

In the last few weeks, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has treated over 10 young children under four years old for E. coli infection. According to investigations, most of the children who were treated for E. coli consumed raw milk from the French Broad Farm, although it’s possible that they got the infection from animals or from another child.

Interestingly, testing revealed that the E. coli strains from the children who consumed raw milk is the same as the E. coli strain from the children at the day care center where animals are nearby, though the children are not allowed to go near them. As such, authorities are looking for a link between the possible sources by testing raw milk from the French Broad Farm as well as samples from the animals at the farm adjacent to the day care center.

Four of the hospitalized children are in the pediatric intensive care unit because of kidney failure, while the others have already been sent home.

Infection From Raw Milk Consumption

Raw milk is any animal milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria that can come from various sources such as animal feces, udder infection, unsanitary conditions, and cow diseases. Some people consume raw milk thinking that it is beneficial for the health, but it is, in fact, one of the riskiest to consume when it comes to contracting foodborne illnesses.

Apart from E. coli, raw milk can also contain brucella, salmonella, listeria, cryptosporidium, and campylobacter, and consuming raw milk or any product made from it may cause serious illnesses, hospitalization, or even death.

The people most at risk for contracting infections from raw milk are infants, older adults, and people with compromised or weakened immune systems. Unfortunately, at least one child younger than five years old is involved in 59 percent of raw milk-related outbreaks from 2007 to 2012.

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