The death that occurred earlier this week in connection with a church potluck luncheon in Lancaster, OH, was of a 54-year-old woman, a Columbus newspaper has reported. The botulism anti-toxin was shipped overnight to local hospitals, but it wouldn’t have saved the woman who died because she was so critically ill, according to Dr. Andrew Murry of Fairfield Medical Center. He spoke at a press conference held Wednesday at the Lancaster hospital.
“These people are really ill, and any time you’re on a ventilator for that amount of time, things could go badly,” Murry said.
The anti-toxin was administered to the other suspected botulism cases — at least 23 people who are hospitalized at several medical facilities in the Columbus area. Murry noted that if it is given to someone within four days of developing infection, the anti-toxin can reduce symptoms of botulism and how long they last. Most of those sickened are said to be mainly adults of middle age, although two children are reportedly among those currently hospitalized.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the source of the botulism is continuing. Health officials are examining trash containers from the church and checking items in people’s home refrigerators, along with interviewing the 50 to 60 people who attended the April 19 potluck luncheon and the family members of those in the hospital. More than 20 food items were reportedly served at the event.
As of Wednesday morning, investigators still did not have a positive botulism test result from either food samples or from the suspected case patients, and there was no definite timeline on when they would.
The April 21 story follows:
One death and at least 20 illnesses are now being reported followed a potluck luncheon held this past Sunday at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church in Lancaster, OH. All of those sickened attended the potluck, according to health officials, which drew a total of 50-60 people. Those sickened went to the emergency room at Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster and were exhibiting symptoms of botulism, reads a hospital statement posted Tuesday. Half of those people were transferred to other facilities in Columbus, and hospital officials were working on getting botulism anti-toxin from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The hospital statement continues: “Botulism is a rare paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin. It is not contagious, so there is no threat to the community at large, or current patients and visitors at FMC. Currently, the patients exhibiting symptoms were all in attendance at a potluck on Sunday, April 19, at the Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church in Lancaster.
The church’s pastor, Bill Pitts, said the lunch was similar to others held there. “Everyone is trying to find the common thread,” he said. “My heart is crying and I pray for the people and their families.” Foodborne botulism, which comes from a nerve toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria, is relatively rare in the U.S. According to CDC, there is an average of 145 cases in this country every year, with about 15 percent of them linked to food. When botulism outbreaks occur, they are usually linked to home-canned food, particularly low-acid vegetables such as beets, corn, asparagus and green beans. While botulism can be fatal, CDC states that the number of people who have died from it has fallen dramatically in the past 50 years from about 50 percent to 3-5 percent of all cases.