MASSACHUSETTS: No brucellosis infection found at Western Mass. dairy farm, health officials say

Posted: January 28th, 2012 - 12:07pm

Massachusetts health officials said today that there was no brucellosis found at a Western Massachusetts dairy farm where raw milk sales were abruptly halted last week because the farm’s owner was thought to be infected with the rare germ.
Brucellosis is an infectious disease passed primarily between animals, but it can be acquired by humans through the consumption of raw milk.
Robert Kilmer, owner of Twin Rivers Farm in Ashley Falls, had notified officials last week that a preliminary test by his doctor was positive for brucellosis, an infection that starts with flu-like symptoms but can become more serious in humans, and can also significantly hamper reproduction in livestock.
But Kilmer said in an interview that he received notice today that more precise testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found no evidence of infection.
Kilmer said he is relieved by the news, but still not feeling 100 percent.
“The stigma of being considered to have something like brucellosis is terrible,” he said. “We are very careful to keep any infectious disease out.”
Health officials said today that they alerted the public last week before final tests were completed because they couldn’t take the chance that someone else might have consumed raw milk from the farm and become infected.
“We had to weigh the public risks and we had no customer lists,” said Dr. Larry Madoff, director of epidemiology and immunization for the state Department of Public Health.
“If we hadn’t done this and someone else got brucellosis from the milk, we would have all felt pretty bad,” he said.
State agricultural officials conducted blood tests on roughly 260 cows from Kilmer’s farm and also tested the raw milk. All turned up negative for the bacteria. State officials said brucellosis hasn’t been seen in Massachusetts livestock in at least two decades.
“All in all, this has been a trying experience, but the cooperation and willingness to take the steps needed by [state and federal agencies] and most importantly the farmer has helped immensely,” Nathan W. L’Etoile, assistant commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, wrote in an e-mail today to industry leaders.


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