Health Department and Agency of Agriculture Investigate Raw Milk Consumption Concern on Small Dairy Farm

For Immediate Release: Feb. 13, 2009

Media Contacts: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
Kelly Loftus, Agency of Agriculture
BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets have been investigating a small dairy farm in Chittenden County this week where two cows that were infected with rabies died.

The Health Department is advising anyone who had close contact with the cows or consumed raw milk (unpasteurized) from one of the cows, to discuss rabies vaccination with their health care providers.

“According to the CDC, cows – or any warm-blooded animal – can pass rabies to people, although there is no documented case of a human becoming infected with rabies by drinking raw milk from a rabid cow. However, out of an abundance of caution, the Health Department recommends that anyone exposed to the virus should discuss possible treatment with their health care provider,” said Acting State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso. “Because human rabies is fatal and the vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective, we want to make sure that anyone who may have consumed raw milk from the cow meet with their medical provider to make an informed decision about whether or not to get vaccinated.”

Anyone who had close contact with the cows or may have consumed raw milk between Jan. 25 and Feb. 8, 2009, when one of the cows first showed signs of illness, is being advised to discuss vaccination with their health care provider.

The small dairy farm does not sell raw milk to the public and there is no risk of exposure to the public from pasteurized milk that originated from the farm. Pasteurization is a process that heats milk to a temperature that kills harmful viruses and bacteria.

The two cows tested positive for rabies at the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory on Feb. 10 and Feb. 11, which led to a joint investigation by the Health Department and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

Health care providers in Chittenden and Franklin counties who may be contacted by the individuals exposed to the animals, or who consumed raw milk on the farm, have been alerted by the Health Department. The Health Department and Agency of Agriculture are continuing to investigate possible exposure risk at the farm.

Both veterinarians who examined the animals and had them euthanized received rabies booster shots as a precautionary measure. The dairy herd (approximately 30 cows) has now been vaccinated and no other animals have exhibited symptoms of illness or rabies.

Raw milk can potentially contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria or viruses – including Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella, and, in rare instances, the rabies virus.

Since 1987, FDA has required all milk packaged for human consumption be pasteurized before delivery into interstate commerce.


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