A church potluck dinner infected several people with botulism. Botulism is a rare illness caused by a toxic bacteria. The disease is not usually fatal, but one woman is dead and over 20 people have been hospitalized with five remaining in critical condition after eating the tainted dinner at a Baptist church in central Ohio, according to KCRA.com on Wednesday.
The potluck dinner was served on Sunday at the Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church in Lancaster, Ohio. Ohio Department of Health spokesman Russ Kennedy said at least 60 people ate the food containing the bacterial spores. Kennedy went on to say that only 18 people are suspected to actually have botulism, but 21 people between the ages of 9 years old and 87 were admitted to the hospital.
Dr. Andrew Murry of the Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster claims that botulism infection from food is fairly rare, saying that canned foods are generally the cause these days. Symptoms of botulism include weakness, fatigue, vision problems and trouble speaking roughly 36 hours of becoming infected. Botulism does not cause a fever and in very rare cases can cause death from respiratory failure.
The bacteria Clostridium botulinum produce botulinum toxin when exposed to certain temperatures. Food usually becomes affected due to inappropriate storage or improper food preparation. Jennifer Valentine with the Fairfield County Health Department said leftovers from the dinner are trying to be tracked down. Treatment of botulism is with an intravenous antitoxin. As many as 50 vials of the antitoxin have been released to hospitals.
Less than 200 cases of botulism are reported each year with only a 3 percent to 5 percent fatality rate. One person so far has died from the Ohio church potluck dinner. Most Western country botulism infections occur in infants who consume honey before their first birthday. Infant death from botulism is only 1 percent.
One microgram of the C. botulinum toxin is lethal to humans. The botulism spore is killed by thoroughly cooking food but will grow again when conditions are right. To prevent botulism infection, keep hot foods hot or referigerate until consumed. Pay attention to hygiene and food temperature when preparing food. Don’t feed infants under a year old honey, and throw away canned foods that are rusted or damaged.
The largest botulism outbreak occured in 1977 when 59 people became ill after eating a hot sauce made from home-canned jalapeno peppers at the same Mexican restaurant.