CLACKAMAS COUNTY - Four children are in the hospital after getting E.coli and Oregon health officials say tests confirm that raw milk from a local farm was likely the source.
An alert went out last week after some children ended up in the hospital with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
To date, five children ages 1 to 14 have gotten sick. Four of them remain hospitalized (three have been confirmed to have hemolytic uremic syndrome and the fourth is awaiting lab confirmation). Thirteen others have reported diarrhea but their cases have not yet been confirmed by a lab.
The children who became sick drank unpasteurized milk from Foundation Farm in Clackamas County. The Oregon Health Authority reported on Tuesday that test results taken from the farm's cows, manure, surfaces and raw milk from one of the farm's customers all tested positive for E.coli.
The farm has voluntarily stopped its milk distribution but anyone who already has some of their milk is being advised to throw it out. The dairy only distributed to 48 households that were part of a herd-share, so the problem isn't widespread.
The symptoms of E.coli infections include diarrhea (sometimes bloody) and abdominal pain. They tend to develop within two to eight days after eating or drinking contaminated food. Young children and the elderly, especially, can suffer from kidney failure and end up with other related complications.
Public health officials warn against drinking unpasteurized milk because it is considered the riskiest when it comes to food-borne illness. A recent study by the Center for Disease Control found that raw milk is 150 times more likely to cause dairy-related illness outbreaks than pasteurized milk.
"There are no advantages to raw milk," Katrina Hedberg, M.D., M.P.H., Oregon Public Health Division state epidemiologist, said. "People who drink raw milk may think that it's more helpful, that it's less treated, etc. But again, that's not the case. What we know is that milk is a very safe and nutritious food if it's been pasteurized."
In Oregon, retail stores are not allowed to sell raw milk.