By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff
State health authorities tonight urged consumers not to drink milk produced by Whittier Farms in Shrewsbury after an investigation showed it is the likely source of a bacterial illness that killed two elderly men and made two other people sick.
The dairy company agreed to stop production and to alert its customers, who are mainly in the central part of the state. The four people who fell ill with listeriosis all live in Worcester County.
Brand names produced by the company include Whittier, Schultz, Balance Rock, Spring Brook, and Maple, according to state authorities.
Symptoms of the disease include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. Most people exposed to the bacterium suffer only mild, flu-like symptoms, but the germ can prove deadly to those with underlying medical conditions. Each year in Massachusetts, about 20 to 25 cases of the disease are identified, but that likely represents only a small fraction of the true number.
The state's top disease tracker, Dr. Alfred DeMaria, said in an interview that a milk sample taken today from Whittier Farm tested positive for listeria.
Sophisticated laboratory testing showed that the four people who became ill were infected with identical strains of listeria. The sample taken at the farm will be analyzed to see if it matches the strain in the people.
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
Elizabeth Comeau, Senior Health Producer