Botulism Infects Church Potluck, Kills One And Poisons 20 – Long Recovery Expected For Sick

One person is dead and 20 others may have a long, arduous road of recovery ahead of them after contracting botulism at a church potluck in Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

The potluck happened on Sunday at a Baptist church in Lancaster. Up to 60 people took part and ate what was likely a wide variety of food, which will make pinning down the source of the toxin difficult.

Ten people were sent to hospitals in Columbus, five ended up in intensive care and another five went to the ER Tuesday night, ABC News added. A neurologist reportedly fingered the toxin as the cause of the illness Tuesday, just as two additional cases popped up.

Most of the victims are middle-aged. Everyone else who attended the church potluck is being told to contact the hospital right away – which is surely making those aren’t yet ill extremely nervous.

Botulism is seriously nasty business, and rare. Only 145 people get it every year, and 15 percent of those cases are food-borne. The usual carriers of the toxin are home-canned foods, especially ones that don’t contain a lot of acid (think green beans, asparagus, beets and corn). All it takes to kill the toxin, however, is 10 minutes of steady boiling in a hot water bath.

Manufacturers or restaurants are sometimes to blame if they mishandle their products; botulism can also creep in to chopped garlic in oil, canned cheese sauce, chili peppers, tomatoes, carrot juice and baked potatoes wrapped in foil.

There’s no word which dish was contaminated at Sunday’s church potluck.

What is certain are the horrifying symptoms, which start 18 to 36 hours and up to 10 days after eating contaminated food. Botulism causes double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth and muscle weakness.

For those sickened Sunday with severe illness, getting better won’t be easy. It can cause respiratory failure and people can spend weeks or months on breathing machines; the paralysis is also hard to get rid of, and often requires intensive care.

Luckily, botulism isn’t contagious so was contained at the church potluck, which means the public isn’t in danger of catching it, added Fox News.

[Photo Courtesy Miguel Villagran/Getty Images]