Journal of Hygiene

Research Article

Campylobacter enteritis associated with the consumption of free school milk

P. H. Jonesa1, A. T. Willisa1, D. A. Robinsona2, M. B. Skirrowa3 and D. S. Josephsa4

a1 Public Health Laboratory, Luton & Dunstable Hospital, Luton

a2 Public Health Laboratory, Withington Hospital, Manchester

a3 Microbiology Department, Worcester Royal Infirmary, Worcester

a4 Bedfordshire Area Health Authority, Luton


A large outbreak of campylobacter enteritis associated with the consumption of free school milk is described. The outbreak had an abrupt onset, and lasted for about 3 weeks; it involved mainly school children in the 2–4 and 5–7 year old age groups. During this period it was established from epidemiological and microbiological data that some 2500 children were infected. The source of the epidemic was almost certainly contaminated milk, although bacteriological proof could not be obtained. Biotyping of isolates was of considerable epidemiological value and showed the involvement of two distinct strains, one of which was dominant. Epidemiological evidence of limited person to person transmission of the infection was obtained; febrile convulsions as a prodromal sign of the illness was recognized for the first time. Strains of Campylobacter jejuni, and samples of patients' serum collected during this outbreak have enabled subsequent studies to be initiated on the serotyping of the responsible organism, on the serological response of patients infected with the organism, and on experimental infection of the bovine udder which demonstrated its potential as a source of C. jejuni in raw milk. A careful search of the literature suggests that this is the largest documented outbreak of campylobacter enteritis.

(Received March 25 1981)