One person died and dozens more were subject to medical observation just hours after attending a church potluck in suburban Lancaster April 19. Those sickened at the potluck were distributed among four area hospitals, and nearly 20 were required to receive a powerful anti-toxin treatment shipped directly from the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scarcely 150 U.S. botulism cases occur annually and only 15 percent of them are foodborne. However, the Ohio outbreak (21 confirmed cases and 10 suspect cases), clearly underscores just how dangerous a foodborne outbreak can be.
Leftovers from the potluck were taken to a nearby long-term care facility. The health of dozens of vulnerable residents could have been jeopardized if that food (including mac and cheese, potato salad and pasta salad), had not been impounded for testing at the last minute.
Local health departments work diligently every day to minimize the risks to the constituents they serve. Will County Environmental Health regularly inspects more than 2,900 area food service establishments to help insure that the potential for foodborne outbreaks remains low. Environmental Health also issues permits for temporary events where food will be served and inspects mobile food service facilities.
If your organization or community group is planning an event where food will be served, please contact Will County Environmental Health (815-727-8490), for information about the permits needed to insure that your event will not jeopardize community health. Call us with any questions!