For Immediate Release
November 23, 2010

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

Gastrointestinal Illness Investigation Preliminary Results

Thanksgiving Turkey Preparation Safety Important Message

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and City-Cowley County Health Department, with assistance from the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the cooperation of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Arkansas City, have been conducting an investigation of a foodborne illness outbreak associated with the Sacred Heart Turkey Dinner that was held on the evening of November 8. 

Since that date, 179 people individuals who attended this event have reported becoming ill, with one requiring hospitalization. Preliminary results from initial testing indicate that the illness is due to exposure to toxin produced by bacteria called Clostridium perfringens; however, further results are still pending. 

Many Clostridium perfringens outbreaks are associated with inadequately heated or reheated beef, turkey or chicken, allowing the bacteria to multiply to high levels.  Once eaten, the bacteria produce a toxin that can lead to illness.  Incubation period, or the time from eating a contaminated food to onset of symptoms, is usually about six to 24 hours; however, this can vary depending on the amount of bacteria present. 

Symptoms usually associated with foodborne exposure to Clostridium perfringens include diarrhea, nausea and stomach cramps, and illness typically lasts about 24 hours. Treatment is typically not necessary. 

“We are fast approaching Thanksgiving when many turkeys will be prepared in homes throughout the state of Kansas,” said Charlie Hunt, State Epidemiologist. “KDHE wants to take this opportunity to remind everyone that proper food handling and preparation is important to ensure a safe and healthy holiday.” 

For a comprehensive fact sheet on preparing food for Thanksgiving and how to handle leftovers, see the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s website at http://www.ksda.gov/news/id/356.

For additional information about cooking turkey and other holiday meats such as pheasant, capon, duck or goose, as well as stuffing, visit the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) web site at: www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Seasonal_Food_Safety_Fact_Sheets/index.asp.

USDA-FSIS also has a year-round hotline where operators can answer food safety questions, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST (English or Spanish) at 1-888-MPHotline or 1-888-674-6854. Questions can also be answered by e-mailing MPHotline.fsis@usda.gov.