The City of Amarillo departments of Public Health and Environmental Health (DPH and EH), the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue their investigation into the cause of the botulism outbreak. Two patients remain hospitalized and two patients have been released. All four patients continue to show signs and symptoms of botulism. Clinical and environmental lab results have been negative but are ongoing.
All agencies have been in constant communication daily since December 9th when the first suspect case was identified. This communication and ongoing investigation has led CDC, DSHS, Public Health and Environmental Health to agree that this outbreak is botulism and all four cases resulted from eating a contaminated homemade food item.
These cases have been epidemiologically linked to a common food source reported at two different residences. Through extensive interviewing, two clusters of two patients each have reported eating this same food item over several weeks, a traditional Middle Eastern dish called turshi. Turshi is a fermented, pickled vegetable dish that is commonly served and was prepared at one of the residences. Investigators believe that during the fermentation phase of preparation lasting several weeks, conditions were ideal for bacteria growth and botulinum toxin production. Because the food was consumed weeks ago, none of the turshi was available for testing. No commercial food product or restaurant has been linked to the outbreak. No new cases have been added to the outbreak of four and there is no reason to believe this contaminating product is a threat to the general public. It is also important to note that commercially available turshi was not implicated in the investigation.
DPH continues to monitor communicable and infectious disease reports for additional cases.