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      Outbreak of staphylococcal food poisoning among children and staff at a Swiss boarding school due to soft cheese made from raw milk.

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          On October 1, 2014, children and staff members at a Swiss boarding school consumed Tomme, a soft cheese produced from raw cow milk. Within the following 7h, all 14 persons who ingested the cheese fell ill, including 10 children and 4 staff members. Symptoms included abdominal pain and violent vomiting, followed by severe diarrhea and fever. We aim to present this food poisoning outbreak and characterize the causative agent. The duration of the incubation period was dependent of the age of the patient: 2.5h in children under 10 yr of age, 3.5h in older children and teenagers, and 7h in adults. The soft cheese exhibited low levels of staphylococcal enterotoxin (SE) A (>6ng of SEA/g of cheese) and high levels of staphylococcal enterotoxin D (>200ng of SED/g of cheese). Counts of 10(7) cfu of coagulase-positive staphylococci per gram of cheese were detected, with 3 different Staphylococcus aureus strains being present at levels >10(6) cfu/g. The 3 strains were characterized using spa typing and a DNA microarray. An enterotoxin-producing strain exhibiting sea and sed was identified as the source of the outbreak. The strain was assigned to spa type tbl 3555 and clonal complex 8, and it exhibited genetic criteria consistent with the characteristics of a genotype B strain. This genotype comprises bovine Staph. aureus strains exclusively associated with very high within-herd prevalence of mastitis and has been described as a major contaminant in Swiss raw milk cheese. It is therefore highly likely that the raw milk used for Tomme production was heavily contaminated with Staph. aureus and that levels further increased due to growth of the organism and physical concentration effects during the cheese-making process. Only a few staphylococcal food poisoning outbreaks involving raw milk products have been described. Still, in view of this outbreak and the possible occurrence of other foodborne pathogens in bovine milk, consumption of raw milk and soft cheese produced from raw milk constitutes a health risk, particularly when young children or other members of sensitive populations are involved.

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          Author and article information

          J. Dairy Sci.
          Journal of dairy science
          May 2015
          : 98
          : 5
          [1 ] Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland. Electronic address: sophia.johler@uzh.ch.
          [2 ] Service de la Consommation et des Affaires Vétérinaires, Département du Développement Territorial et de l'Environnement République et Canton de Neuchâtel, 2001 Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
          [3 ] Agroscope, Institute for Food Sciences, 3003 Bern, Switzerland.
          [4 ] Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.
          Copyright © 2015 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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