Amarillo officials investigate possible botulism outbreak

UPDATE: All departments have worked diligently to investigate the source of the botulism outbreak. Two patients have been released and two patients remain hospitalized however all four patients continue to display signs and symptoms of botulism. Lab results have been negative to date but the investigation is ongoing.

According to the City of Amarillo, DSHS, DPH, EH and the CDC have agreed that the source for the bacteria has come from a contaminated homemade food item. All four patients have reported eating a common food source, a traditional Middle Eastern dish known as Turshi. Due to the fermentation process of the dish it is believed that conditions were ideal for botulinum toxin production and bacteria growth. The dish was not available for testing because it was consumed.

At this time no restaurants or commercial food products have been linked to the outbreak. There have been no new reported cases and the DPH does not believe there is a contamination threat to the general public. DPH also said that commercially produced Turshi was not a part of the investigation.

DPH is currently monitoring communicable and infectious disease reports for additional case.


UPDATE: Health officials from the CDC in Atlanta will be joing DPH in their investigation. DPH is asking anyone with similar symptoms to contact a health care provider. Please note that the botulism bacteria cannot be spread person to person. The bacteria is most often found in food that has not been handled properly. This includes food not stored properly or kept at proper temperatures.

The city of Amarillo Department of Public Health is investigating four botulism cases after four people have been hospitalized with symptoms of the bacteria.

According to DPH, symptoms of botulism include: difficulty swallowing, double or blurry vision, slurred speech, heavy or droopy eyelids and muscle weakness progressing from head to toe. Botulism is a serious paralytic illness caused by bacteria that can be caught by ingesting a contaminated food and if untreated botulism can be fatal.

All four people in the cases are hospitalized at this time, two patients have received the antitoxin and are improving slowly. All of the patients know one of the other patients but DPH has yet to find a definitive link between the cases and a specific restaurant, food, school, workplace or church.

At this time officials are asking doctors and patients to watch for these symptoms so health officials can respond to the cases quickly. DPH and the City of Amarillo Environmental Health are working with the Texas Department of State Health Services and Centers for Disease Control. Food samples have been submitted for testing and results are expected within the next two days.

DPH and EH are asking anyone experiencing these symptoms to contact a physician immediately. Health care providers are asked to report patients that are suffering from these symptoms to Carry Carlton at 378-6327 or Amber Sable at 378-6340. Reports can also be submitted via fax to 378-6306.