The Pepin County Health Department in the scenic bluff country of western Wisconsin received a telephone call on the morning of September 22, 2014, from the school nurse at Durand High School. The nurse reported a high rate of absenteeism among football players, student managers and coaches four days after they all attended a team dinner where raw milk was served. Working with the Wisconsin Division of Public Health and the food safety division of the state agriculture department, the county launched a food poisoning investigation that connected the illnesses to Campylobacter in locally produced raw milk .
"The results... determined that consumption of unpasteurized milk during the Thursday team dinner was associated with the occurrence of Campylobacter jejuni infections among football team-affiliated individuals,'' state and local health officials wrote in the outbreak's final report.
A total of 38 case patients can now decide whether or not to file a Durand Camplyobacter lawsuit. That's because the pathogen investigation found a precise molecular match between the outbreak strain of Campylobacter and samples of the organism recovered from dairy cow manure on the farm that supplied the raw milk. Campylobacter found in six of the bovine samples matched the genetic fingerprint of the most common strain of the bacteria that made people sick. According to the report, 10 of the victims were hospitalized or received care in the emergency room. Symptoms included diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, muscle aches, headaches, chills, sweats and fever. The range of high temperatures spanned from 99.9 degrees to 105 degrees, with a median of 102.
Food safety attorney Fred Pritzker said the basis of litigation in this outbreak rests with findings that the team was unaware that raw milk was part of the menu. It was mixed with chocolate syrup after store-purchased chocolate milk ran out, the report said. Wisconsin is one of the states that has legislated against the sale of raw milk because of its inherent riskiness. Unpasteurized milk -- even from the most carefully watched dairy barns -- can contain invisible, odorless bacteria that has the potential to cause fatal infection.
Raw milk is unfit for human consumption. Pritzker's own Bad Bug Law Team has filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of people sickened by raw milk, including cases where his clients have won more than $1 million in damages. If you or a loved one has been sickened in this outbreak, contact Fred or one of his partners at PritzkerOlsen for a free case consultation and discussion of your legal rights.