The outbreak of illnesses that sickened more than 40 people and killed three patients at Central Louisiana State Hospital in Pineville appears to be connected to bacteria from chicken salad served at the facility. Tests done on the chicken salad were positive for Clostridium perfringens, which is a frequent cause of foodpoisoning illnesses.
C. perfringens is a naturally occurring organism, but it can spread to unsafe levels with improper food storage and handling. Some strains of Clostridium perfringens cause mild to moderate disease that gets better without treatment, whereas other strains cause severe gastroenteritis that can damage the small intestine and sometimes lead to death. Contaminated meat is usually responsible for outbreaks of Clostridium perfringens food poisoning. Some strains cannot be destroyed by cooking the food thoroughly, whereas others can.
The gastroenteritis starts about 6 to 24 hours after contaminated food is eaten. The most common symptoms are watery diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Although usually mild, the infection also can cause abdominal pain, abdominal expansion (distention) from gas, severe diarrhea, dehydration, and a severe decrease in blood pressure (shock).