Doc­tor: Com­mon bac­te­ria caused Thanks­giv­ing din­ner deaths

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A com­mon food-borne bac­te­ria caused an ill­ness that left three peo­ple dead and sick­ened 22 oth­ers who at­tended a din­ner at an events hall in the San Fran­cisco sub­urb of An­ti­och on Thanks­giv­ing Day, health of­fi­cials said Tues­day.

Dr. Louise McNitt, deputy health of­fi­cer with Con­tra Costa County Health Ser­vices, said the deaths and ill­nesses were caused by bac­te­ria named Clostrid­ium per­frin­gens. “Clostrid­ium per­frin­gens is one of the most com­mon food­borne ill­nesses in the US It can be found in the hu­man in­tes­tine with­out hurt­ing us, but eat­ing food con­tain­ing large amounts of this bac­te­ria can cause ill­ness and in some cases death,” McNitt said. The bac­te­ria can be found in the soil, in peo­ple and in an­i­mals, she said.

Of­fi­cials iden­ti­fied the three peo­ple who died as Christo­pher Cap­petti, 43, Chooi Keng Cheah, 59, and Jane Evans, 69. All were res­i­dents of as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties in An­ti­och.

The bac­te­ria was likely found in one of the food items that wasn’t cooked to the right tem­per­a­ture or held at the right tem­per­a­ture when eaten, McNitt said. It was not de­ter­mined which dish con­tained it.

How­ever, of­fi­cials said that af­ter ex­ten­sive in­ter­views, it was de­ter­mined that those who were sick­ened and died ate turkey and mashed pota­toes. They also ate around the same time of day. Some dishes served at the event, in­clud­ing cooked turkey, were brought to the site af­ter they were pre­pared in pri­vate homes.

McNitt said most strains of the bac­te­ria are harm­less and that there is no way to mea­sure what would have been a lethal level in the vic­tims. “This bac­te­ria usu­ally causes fairly mild symp­toms, such as stom­ach cramp­ing and di­ar­rhea that lasts for 6 to 12 hours,” said McNitt, adding that it can more ad­versely im­pact those with com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tems. “It can vary from per­son to per­son as to how they re­act to ill­ness.”

Of­fi­cials said proper food han­dling is es­sen­tial to pre­vent food­borne ill­ness, in­clud­ing cook­ing foods to proper tem­per­a­tures; cool­ing and stor­ing them ap­pro­pri­ately if they’re not go­ing to be eaten right away; sep­a­rat­ing raw meats from foods that won’t be cooked; stor­ing food prop­erly; and wash­ing hands and cook­ing sur­faces of­ten.

“We’re sad­dened for the fam­i­lies that suf­fered losses this hol­i­day sea­son. We en­cour­age any­one plan­ning char­ity events where food will be served to the pub­lic to con­tact us to un­der­stand the per­mit­ting process and to learn about food safety,” said Dr. Mar­i­lyn Un­der­wood, en­vi­ron­men­tal health di­rec­tor for the county. —AP

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