780 AM | 96.1 FM 

“YOURS FOR WESTERN ALASKA”

(907) 443-5221

Botulism Confirmed as Source of Illnesses and Death in Nome This January

An aerial view of Nome, Alaska, its airport runways, and nearby mountains, covered in snow in late winter 2017.
An aerial view of Nome, Alaska, and the surrounding countryside; March 2017. (For more detail, see larger image, below.) Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus, KNOM.

Results released yesterday from a State of Alaska epidemiology test show four individuals were hospitalized from a type-E botulism outbreak in Nome earlier this year. One of those patients was Thomas Menadelook, Jr., of Little Diomede, who died 13 days after the onset of botulism symptoms.

According to the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), during a potluck in Nome at the beginning of January, 14 people ate food during the event, and nine of them reported at least one symptom compatible with botulism. Of those experiencing severe symptoms, like vomiting, double vision, and dizziness, four patients were hospitalized and confirmed as botulism cases.

The DHSS Epidemiology office says the source of the type-E botulinum toxin was an aged beluga whale flipper consumed during the potluck in Nome on New Year’s Day (Jan. 1, 2019). All four patients were identified as Alaska Native, including Menadelook, who was the only fatality from the botulism outbreak.

Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist with the state, says the toxin can be found all over. It’s ubiquitous, but it prefers an environment where there is no oxygen.

“If food is prepared where there is more oxygen, there are things like dropping the PH or adding salt which would potentially make an environment, where the food is kind of aging, less hospitable for that toxin to be produced. And it’s susceptible to heat, so, if you boil something or cook something, you would rid the toxin that way.”

According to DHSS, all foodborne cases of botulism in Alaska from 1950–2017 occurred after the consumption of traditionally-prepared Alaska Native foods. Before this incident, the last death attributed to botulism happened in 2014.

Image at top: file photo: An aerial view of Nome, Alaska, and the surrounding countryside, March 2017. Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus, KNOM.

Share this story

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email

Recent Posts

Goldbug Fire Grows to Over 4,500 Acres

Update 06/19/2024: The size estimate of the fire has been expanded to 7,421 acres. Six smokejumpers worked on the Goldbug Fire (#130) for two days to keep it north of the Kugruk River. After it stalled due to natural barriers, the smokejumpers demobilized Sunday and were redeployed to the Alagnak River

Read More »

KNOM Radio to Host First-Ever Music Fest

KNOM Radio Mission will host its first-ever Music Fest Friday and Saturday, June 14 and 15. The event, hosted at KNOM’s Back Yard, will be a great opportunity for the Bering Strait region to gather and celebrate the start of summer. Admission to the event is free.  The two-day Music Fest will feature

Read More »

More

Newsletter:

Work for Us:

Jobs

Contact

Nome:

(907) 443-5221 

Anchorage:

(907) 868-1200 

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.