The 2015 botulism outbreak linked to a church potluck reported in Apr. 2015 in Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio accounted for a bulk of the foodborne botulism cases nationally in 2015, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National botulism surveillance report published this week.

Botulism is often associated with home-canning Image/CDC
Botulism is often associated with home-canning

The Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church in Lancaster outbreak was associated with potato salad prepared with improperly home-canned potatoes. More than two dozen people were sickened and one death was reported.

According to the CDC, 39 cases of confirmed foodborne botulism were reported from 7 states in 2015.   There were 5 outbreaks (events with two or more cases) accounting for 37 confirmed cases.

In May 2015, Alaska reported four cases of foodborne botulism (the second largest outbreak) linked to the consumption of fermented seal flipper.

In addition,  6 cases of probable foodborne botulism (clinically compatible illness, not laboratory-confirmed, with an epidemiologic link to a suspect food) were reported from 3 states.

Foodborne botulism is caused by the consumption of foods containing pre-formed botulinum toxin.

Concerning all types of botulism–infant, foodborne, wound and botulism of unknown or other transmission category–199 total cases were reported in 2015.

141 cases of infant botulism were reported from 33 states and the District of Columbia.  No deaths were reported. Infant botulism by definition occurs in persons less than one year of age and is caused by consumption of spores of C. botulinum, which then grow and release toxins in the intestines.


There were 15 cases of confirmed wound botulism reported from 5 states.  Fourteen (93%) were people who inject drugs (PWID). One death was reported. Wound botulism is caused by toxin produced in a wound infected with Clostridium botulinum.

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and sometimes by strains of Clostridium butyricum and Clostridium baratii. Botulism can be treated with an antitoxin that blocks the action of toxin circulating in the blood.

Antitoxin for children one year of age and older and for adults is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Alaska Division of Public Health (ADPH), and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH); antitoxin for infants is available from CDPH.