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One dead from botulism after church potluck dinner

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- One person has died and at least 23 others were hospitalized after an outbreak of botulism following a potluck dinner at a central Ohio church, the Ohio Department of Health said Wednesday.

All of the patients attended the potluck Sunday at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church in Lancaster, about 30 miles southeast of Columbus, said health department spokesman Russ Kennedy. As many as 60 people ate at the event.

Five patients are in critical condition and 10 were taken to hospitals in Columbus, according to Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday released 50 vials of antitoxin from the Strategic National Stockpile for the patients, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said.

Russ Kennedy, a spokesman with the Ohio Department of Health, told CNN that the antitoxin has been distributed to hospitals treating patients.

The Fairfield County health department is leading the investigation and is working to identify the contaminated food.

Botulism can be fatal, with symptoms typically beginning within 36 hours of consuming contaminated food. The infection can result in paralysis, double vision, difficulty swallowing and respiratory failure.

"In this day and age, botulism from food is fairly rare. Generally it's canned foods," said Dr. Andrew Murry of Fairfield Medical Center. "The fatality rate is usually fairly low."

Botulism is not contagious.

"It is not a threat to our patients, visitors or staff or the community at large," Murry said.

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