Botulism outbreak under control, says Dept. of Public Health

Dec 29, 2014

Those hospitalized have improved, and most others have passed a period of observation.

DILLINGHAM: The outbreak of botulism across a few Southwest Alaska communities from a batch of seal oil appears to be contained, but not all of those who consumed some of the product are out of the woods just yet.

Dr. Michael Cooper is the Infections Disease Program Manager with the state’s Public Health Department. He says medical officials are still keeping an eye on just over a handful of the original 25 who were known to eaten some of the contaminated oil:

"We're down to seven or eight people who are still being monitored, one until December 31, one until January 1, and five until January 2. They're asymptomatic, and we're just watching them, checking in daily, to see if they develop symptoms," said Dr. Cooper.

Last week two patients from Quinhagak were flown to Bethel first, then medevaced to Anchorage and kept under intensive care, reportedly unable to breathe on their own. Dr. Cooper says those two have since improved:

"The last I heard is that they were still inpatient in Anchorage, but they had gone a step down. Meaning they had been in intensive care but no longer needed that level of care. So all the news is good," he said.

According to Dr. Cooper, a few Southwest area residents reported having suspicious symptoms Monday, and were traveling to Dillingham for observation to see if those symptoms were related to botulism.

At this point, Cooper says the outbreak of botulism from this batch of seal oil from Twin Hills is likely contained, and has not been reported in villages outside of Quinhagak, Twin Hills, and Dillingham:

"We have a pretty reliable story about where the seal oil might've gone to, and so far we haven't had any reports outside of those areas."

Dr. Cooper said the batch of contaminated seal oil has been accounted for and destroyed.