The CDC has issued a health advisory to people in 19 states who may have been exposed to a rare and dangerous form of Brucella in raw milk produced by Miller’s Biodiversity Farm in Quarryville, PA. One person in New York, who became ill after drinking the unpasteurized milk, was diagnosed with an infection caused by Brucella abortus RB51, a live attenuated strain of Brucella used as a vaccine for cows.
Left untreated, an infection from this Brucella strain can cause chronic and life-threatening problems affecting the nervous system, heart, liver and spleen. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among pregnant women, this infection can cause miscarriage.
Because symptoms of brucellosis can take up to six months to develop, everyone who has consumed raw milk from Miller’s Biodiversity Farm since July 1, 2018, should see a doctor and begin treatment with antibiotics. Even if they show no sign of illness.
Typically, treatment for brucellosis is a six-to-eight-week course of doxycycline and rifampin used in combination. However, Brucella abortus RB51is resistant to rifampin. So, the CDC’s recommended treatment for these infections is a 21-day course of doxycycline and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole.
The CDC has identified consumers with possible exposures to the raw milk in 19 states. They are: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.
Although it is common in developing countries, brucellosis in the U.S. is rare. Annually, only fewer than 150 cases are reported nationwide. Infections linked to the vaccine strain Brucella abortus RB51 are rarer still. The case reported in New York is one of three that have been reported since 2017. (The other two cases were reported from New Jersey and Texas in unrelated outbreaks that year.) About 2 percent of all Brucella infections prove fatal.
Developed to prevent Brucella abortus infections in cattle, the Brucella abortus RB51 vaccine was created specifically to allow for the differentiation between naturally infected and vaccinated animals in lab testing. The strain does not occur in nature.
Symptoms of brucellosis can appear within days of exposure or take up to six months to develop. They include fever, headache, sweats, muscle and joint pain, malaise, weight loss and fatigue. Complications include endocarditis, meningitis and swelling of the liver or spleen.