Clostridium perfringens

The Cedar Heights Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa hosts an annual Thanksgiving dinner that is open to all church members as well as the general public.

The 2004 dinner was prepared and delivered to the church by the Hy-Vee grocery store located on University Avenue in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The consisted of turkey meat, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce, coffee, milk, lemonade, rolls, and butter. Approximately 750 meals were served at the dinner, including approximately 140 delivered to homes by church volunteers.

The first report of illness came on the morning of Monday, November 29, 2004. The Black Hawk County Health Department received a complaint from a mother and her two children that they experienced watery diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps approximately ten hours after consuming the church-provided meal. Based on this information, the health department initiated an outbreak investigation and contacted the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology for assistance.

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Clostridium perfringens

Clostridium perfringens is widely present in the environment, and often occurs in the intestines of humans and many animals. C.  perfringens is one of the most common foodborne illnesses in the United States. Institutional foodservice areas such as school cafeterias, hospitals, and nursing homes are primary targets for populations of the organism.