Knox officials clear McBee Dairy Farm to resume operations

Knox officials clear McBee Dairy Farm to resume operations, E. coli victim's parents continue support

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15-month-old Addison Wood was in the hospital for two weeks with a confirmed E. coli infection which led to a life threatening complication. 15-month-old Addison Wood was in the hospital for two weeks with a confirmed E. coli infection which led to a life threatening complication.
"It's a risk no matter what you do, but down the road I think we've talked about doing it again," said Jesse Wood. "It's a risk no matter what you do, but down the road I think we've talked about doing it again," said Jesse Wood.
"800 to 1,000 people get our milk a week. That's a one to two percent chance of getting sick from drinking raw milk if they are 100 percent correct," said Marcie McBee. "800 to 1,000 people get our milk a week. That's a one to two percent chance of getting sick from drinking raw milk if they are 100 percent correct," said Marcie McBee.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Knox County Health Department and the East Tennessee Regional Office of the Tennessee Department of Health are allowing McBee Dairy farm to resume operations after determining an outbreak of E. coli related illness is over.

The two agencies are continuing to investigate the outbreak, which they say was linked to raw milk consumption.

Nine people were sickened, including three with confirmed cases of the same E. coli 0157 infection.

All cases are among children, and three developed a complication called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. After extensive interviews, health officials determined drinking raw milk from McBee Dairy Farm in Mascot was the common link.

Health department officials have been contacting people who may be at risk and collecting raw milk samples from consumers and manure and milk samples from the farm.

To date, several raw milk samples, including those most recently collected, have been negative for E. coli, according to the Knox County Health Department. However, one raw milk sample from a consumer and several manure samples from the farm revealed DNA from the toxin that causes Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.

Based on the dates when the children became ill and allowing time for raw milk to be collected and distributed, health officials estimate the contamination event happened in early October.

"Our investigation has not identified any specific problem with McBee Dairy Farm; it's just the nature of the raw milk industry," said KCHD Director Dr. Martha Buchanan. "Milk can so easily be contaminated given the proximity of the source of the milk and the source of the contamination, which is frequently fecal bacteria, that even with safety precautions in place at the dairy, there is no way to guarantee that raw milk is safe for consumption."

Officials say that since no new cases have been identified, the current outbreak appears to be over. Therefore, health officials lifted the cease and desist order from McBee Dairy Farm. However, the farm has agreed to work with the University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension Office's food safety expert in dairy operation best practices.

Officials say raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products are inherently risky to consumers and can contain harmful bacteria. They say pasteurization is the only way to kill many of the bacteria.

Victim's parents continue to support raw milk

15-month-old Addison Wood was in the hospital for two weeks with a confirmed E. coli infection which led to a life threatening complication. The girl is now on the mend, but her parents are not blaming McBee Dairy Farm.

Addison is very active, always on the go. Just over two weeks ago her behavior was dramatically different.

"She became almost lifeless, wouldn't walk. She threw up a few times. She wouldn't eat after that," said Jesse Wood.

Jesse and Karen Wood rushed their daughter to the ER. Doctors confirmed she had an E. coli infection, then developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. Addison received three blood transfusions as her parents stayed by her side.

"You just want to take it out of them and put it in your own body and deal with it yourself but you feel helpless. There's nothing you can do," said Wood.

For the past five months, the Woods have been giving Addison raw milk from McBee Dairy Farm.

"There's a lot of nutritional value taken out of milk when it's pasteurized," said Wood.

The Woods say they do not hold McBee Dairy Farm responsible for their daughter's illness.

"Since the tests were coming back negative, then it's going to be hard to tell exactly where she got it. Babies put their hands in their mouths so much she could have touched something that had it on there and got it that way," said Wood.

Owner of McBee Dairy Farm Marcie McBee doesn't believe the E. coli came from her farm but even if it did she says it's very rare.

"800 to 1,000 people get our milk a week. That's a one to two percent chance of getting sick from drinking raw milk if they are 100 percent correct," said McBee.

The Woods say they knew the risk of raw milk before buying into the cow share, and even though their little girl became sick with an E. coli infection, they'll pick up the raw milk again in the future.

"It's a risk no matter what you do, but down the road I think we've talked about doing it again," said Wood.

Addison's father Jesse Wood wants to let people know MEDIC is holding a blood replenishment drive on December 9 at Valley View Baptist Church, 3521 Old Valley View Drive, in an effort to replenish the blood used in Addison's transfusions and to add to the supply to help others.

6 News Reporter STEPHANIE BEECKEN contributed to this report.

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