Delaware state health officials are reminding the public to avoid consuming raw dairy products as it announced a confirmed case of brucellosis caused by Brucella melitensis in a 46-year-old Sussex County woman.

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The illness is a bacterial infection, which primarily affects those consuming, or coming into contact with, contaminated animals or animal products. The most common source of infection is through the consumption of raw, unpasteurized dairy products. Prior to becoming ill, the patient in this case had consumed unpasteurized homemade dairy products from Mexico. No other risk factors have been identified.

The individual was hospitalized and is recovering after being treated for the illness. A second, related case of brucellosis is also pending confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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“Cases such as this one can serve as an unfortunate reminder that we are vulnerable to certain bacteria and should take precautions to protect ourselves,” said DPH Medical Director Dr. Rick Hong. “Delawareans are encouraged to avoid purchasing and consuming unpasteurized dairy products. Consuming questionable food items is not worth the risk to your health.”

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Brucellosis infection is most frequently transmitted by eating or drinking raw/unpasteurized dairy products such as milk and cheese, yet can also be contracted through inhalation or physical contact with infected animals or animal products. When sheep, goats, cows or camels are infected, their milk becomes contaminated with the bacteria. If the milk from infected animals is not pasteurized, the infection will be transmitted to people who consume the milk and/or cheese products. Brucellosis is not common in the United States. Nationally, the average is less than 200 human cases each year. Person to person transmission is rare. Prior to this case, DPH has confirmed three cases since 2010; those cases occurred in 2010, 2017 and 2018. The case in 2010 was associated with consumption of unpasteurized milk while the nature of exposure in the 2017 and 2018 cases is unknown.

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