Up to 20 people have been sickened from raw milk supplied by a ranch in Pueblo County, leading health officials to warn against drinking unpasteurized milk from the farm.
The outbreak of campylobacteriosis - an infection causing nausea and diarrhea - stems from raw milk distributed by Larga Vista Ranch, which is about 20 miles east of Pueblo, according to El Paso and Pueblo county health officials.
The infections highlight the dangers of drinking raw, unpasteurized milk, said Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods, El Paso County Public Health's medical director.
"Sometimes people think that raw foods of all kinds are healthier," she said. "But in this case, raw milk is very dangerous to be drinking."
Since Aug. 1, health officials have confirmed 12 such cases and eight probable cases, according to the El Paso and Pueblo county health departments. Of those 20 people, half live in El Paso County, and half live in Pueblo County.
The infections stem from milk supplied by a herdshare program, which allows people to purchase stakes in livestock, such as cows or goats, and to receive a portion of each animal's milk or meat.
Normally, selling raw milk is illegal in Colorado. But herdshare programs offer the lone exception, Nevin-Woods said.
About 175 people participate in Larga Vista's herdshare program, and notices have been sent to each person urging them to avoid the milk, Nevin-Woods said.
Some of the people sickened were not part of the herdshare program. They received the milk from people who were part of it, which is not allowed, health officials said.
An after-hours call to the ranch by The Gazette was not returned.
Symptoms of the disease include fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, the health departments said. The most serious cases can lead to death, Nevin-Woods said.
Infants, young children, pregnant women, seniors and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk.
Anyone experiencing those symptoms should seek medical care, the health departments said.
Nevin-Woods added that drinking raw milk - be it from Larga Vista Ranch or elsewhere - is dangerous and should be avoided.
"You're taking a chance - you could become very ill," Nevin-Woods said.
Editor's note: This article has been changed to correctly reflect how herdshare members are not allowed to share share their milk with other people.