Nearly 25 people have been hospitalized, including a 54-year-old woman who died, due to a botulism breakout after a church potluck.
Investigators are trying to pinpoint which dish served at an Ohio church potluck was behind a botulism outbreak that killed one person and may have sickened dozens more.
Health officials will be testing 23 samples from Sunday’s event at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church in Lancaster, Ohio, Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Cassie Bala said.
So far, Bala said, there are a total of 24 suspected cases, one laboratory-confirmed case and one person under observation as a precaution.
Botulism is rarely fatal. Its symptoms typically begin within 36 hours of consuming contaminated food. It can cause paralysis, double vision, difficulty swallowing and respiratory failure.
On Wednesday, Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster said five patients were in critical condition and 10 were taken to hospitals in Columbus.
“In this day and age, botulism from food is fairly rare. Generally it’s canned foods,” said Dr. Andrew Murry of Fairfield Medical Center. “The fatality rate is usually fairly low.”
At a press conference Wednesday, Murry stressed that botulism is not contagious and, in this instance, would only affect anyone who ate at the potluck.
The patients all reportedly became ill after attending a potluck Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church in Lancaster.
10 of the patients have been taken to hospitals in Columbus, and five patients are listed in critical condition.
Botulism is a rare and potentially fatal illness caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. The disease begins with weakness, trouble seeing, feeling tired, and trouble speaking. This may then be followed by weakness of the arms, chest muscles, and legs. The disease does not usually affect consciousness or cause a fever.
Botulism can occur in a few different ways. The bacterial spores that cause it are common in both soil and water. They produce botulinum toxin when exposed to low oxygen levels and certain temperatures. Foodborne botulism happens when food containing the toxin is eaten. Infant botulism happens when the bacteria develops in the intestines and releases toxin. Typically this only happens in children less than six months of age as after that protective mechanisms develop. Wound botulism is found most often among those who inject street drugs. In this situation spores enter a wound and, in the absence of oxygen, release toxin. It is not passed directly between people. The diagnosis is confirmed by finding the toxin or bacteria in the person in question.