April 2015

Based on laboratory tests and interviews with potluck attendees, public health officials have concluded that potato salad made with home-canned potatoes is the likely cause of a foodborne botulism outbreak following a church potluck in Lancaster on April 19.

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by certain kinds of bacteria.

As of today, there are 21 confirmed cases of botulism associated with this outbreak, including one death. There are 10 suspected cases in which the individuals are exhibiting symptoms consistent with botulism. Patients have been treated with a botulism antitoxin provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 12 remain hospitalized.

“This is a difficult time for our community, and our thoughts and prayers are with the affected individuals and their families,” said Mark Aebi, M.D., Health Commissioner & Medical Director for Fairfield Department of Health. “I want to thank our staff for their dedication and hard work during this outbreak as well as the tremendous support we have received from ODH and the CDC. FMC’s rapid assessment and participation in this response has been invaluable as well.”

Mary DiOrio, M.D., Medical Director of the Ohio Department of Health, noted the local, state and federal collaboration in responding to the outbreak. The response involved public health including Fairfield Department of Health, Ohio Department of Health, and CDC, as well as central Ohio hospitals including Fairfield Medical Center.

“I want to thank my colleagues in these public health agencies and hospitals for the tremendous work that they have done to treat individuals who have been sickened, and to investigate and control the outbreak,” she said.

One person is dead, and 24 others are being treated for botulism at Fairfield Medical Center.

Health officials say all of the people who are ill attended a potluck at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church Sunday.

Health officials report 50 to 60 people attended the potluck.

Botulism is a rare paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin, and can be foodborne. The hospital says a neurologist determined a patient had botulism Tuesday morning, and a short time later, two other cases were identified. All of the patients came in to the Emergency Department at Fairfield Medical Center, but the hospital says several have been transferred to other medical facilities.

All of the people affected had symptoms that included double vision, blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, and blurred vision. Doctors are working on getting an anti-toxin from the Centers for Disease Control to treat the patients.

The Fairfield Medical Center is reminding the community that botulism is not contagious, so there is no threat to the community. But medical officials are encouraging anyone who was at the potluck to come to the emergency department. The medical center has also set up an emergency hotline to answer questions at 740-687-8053.

The New York Department of Agriculture today warned consumers not to eat “Dry Bream-lesh (fish)” sold by Tatuka Inc. of Brooklyn, NY, and distributed by Royal Sweet Bakery, also of Brooklyn, because the product was found to be uneviscerated.

Dried fish labelThe “Dry Bream-lesh (fish)” was sold from retail stores to consumers in the NYC metro area. The product was packaged in a clear, vacuum-packed, flexible plastic pouch and offered for sale at refrigerated temperatures. The product is coded with a “Best before: 01:08:2015” date and is a product of Russia.

Uneviscerated processed fish is prohibited under New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ regulations because Clostridium botulinum spores are more likely to be concentrated in the viscera than any other portion of the fish.

Because this fish product is uneviscerated, the product may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum spores, which can cause botulism, a serious and potentially fatal foodborne illness. Symptoms of botulism include blurred or double vision, general weakness, poor reflexes, difficulty swallowing, and respiratory paralysis.

The “dry bream-lesh (fish)” was found by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets food inspectors during a routine inspection of the retail firm. Subsequent analysis by New York State Food Laboratory personnel confirmed the product to be uneviscerated.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with the product. Consumers who have this product are advised not to eat it.

The New Mexico Department of Health is cooperating with the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on an investigation of two patients who are hospitalized in Texas with suspected botulism. The source is currently being investigated but is likely contaminated food. The patients are two adults from Lea County.

Botulism is a rare but potentially fatal illness caused by a nerve toxin that causes paralysis. All healthcare providers should consider botulism in patients presenting with the following signs and symptoms:

Double vision
Blurred vision
Drooping eyelids
Slurred speech
Difficulty swallowing
Dry mouth
Muscle weakness/descending paralysis
Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath

If untreated, these symptoms may progress to cause paralysis of the respiratory muscles, arms, legs, and trunk with subsequent death. Physicians should consider the diagnosis if physical examination suggest botulism.

The New Mexico Department of Health recommends:

If you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms listed above immediately seek professional medical care.

All clinicians be alert for cases of botulism and consult New Mexico Department of Health for all suspect cases.

Report any suspect case to the Department of Health 24/7/365 at: 505-827-0006 so that antitoxin can be obtained as soon as possible if indicated.