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Health Officials Warn Missourians Against Raw Milk After Local Resident Contracts E.Coli Bacteria

State and local health officials are investigating at least one case of E. Coli in Greene County. State officials have identified raw milk as a risk factor in the person's illness.

KSMU's Jennifer Moore reports.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department has confirmed that at least one female in Greene County has contracted the O157:H7 strain of the E.Coli bacteria.

One in every ten cases of this particular strain leads to hemolytic-uremic syndrome--or HUS--which can result in kidney failure and even death.

Jaci McReynolds spokesperson for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

She says the investigation is still underway and adds that she cannot comment on the age or condition of the patient.

Harvey Marx is the cheif of the Bureau of Communicable Disease and Prevention, a division of the state health department.

He confirms that at least one southwest Missouri individual has fallen ill after consuming raw milk and is warning Missourians of its potential dangers.

Marx stressed that raw milk has yet to be confirmed as the cause of the illness but said the patient reported drinking raw milk before falling ill and that raw milk products have been associated with these harmful bacteria in the past.

Raw milk--and products made with it--are those which have not been pasteurized. Pasteurization is a process that kills harmful organisms and bacteria by heating the milk to a specific temperature for a set length of time.

In Missouri, a farmer can sell raw milk directly from the farm, but it's illegal to sell raw milk in retail stores.

Raw milk has gained tremendous popularity in recent years. Supporters of raw milk say it has greater nutritional value than pasteurized milk--that its healthy bacteria aid digestion and boost the immune system.

Teddi Bechard sells raw milk from her family farm in Conway Missouri. She says her farm is not the one that sold raw milk to the individual in the investigation and adds that, to her knowledge, no one has ever gotten sick from her farm's milk.

She added her phone rings almost constantly these days with calls for raw milk.

She feels her family and friends have experienced better health as a result of drinking raw milk as opposed to pasteurized milk.

She acknowledges that raw milk can become contaminated, but only if certain rules aren't followed.

A third way raw milk can become contaminated is if a trace of feces—--such as animal manure--gets into the milk. That's where the potentially deadly E.Coli bacteria comes in.

Bechard says their cows are hooked up to milking tubes so that isn't a possibility in their case.

Still, after this latest case of E. Coli, health officials aren't taking any chances. They are advising Missourians to check the ingredients of any milk products--including goat milk and cheese--to make sure it says "Pasteurized" on the ingredients list.

For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.