On average, there are about 145 cases of botulism reported in the US each year—and almost two dozen of this year's have now apparently come out of Lancaster, Ohio, after what looks to be a church potluck gone wrong, the Columbus Dispatch reports. One person died and at least 18 others were injured after exhibiting symptoms of the rare illness, which is caused by a nerve toxin created by bacteria, per the CDC. A press release from Fairfield Medical Center has confirmed the one death and says 10 people were moved to other hospitals, five remain in the ER at FMC, and three are in ICU there, per the AP; most of the affected are middle-aged, a hospital rep tells the Dispatch. The hospital adds in its statement that it thinks all those sickened had attended a potluck picnic on Sunday at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church.
The CDC notes about 15% of botulism cases annually are foodborne (the rest are typically related to wounds or found in infants); the illness isn't contagious. Symptoms include blurry or double vision, slurred speech, and muscle weakness, and—as the hours tick by, and if left untreated—paralysis and even death. One of FMC's doctors tells CNN that though "in this day and age botulism from food is fairly rare, generally it's canned foods" that are to blame when it's caused by tainted fare. The CDC has sent an antitoxin to Ohio, per the network. The church's pastor notes to Food Safety News that Sunday's gathering wasn't different from others usually held. "Everyone is trying to find the common thread," he tells the site. "My heart is crying." (Read more botulism stories.)