Laboratory testing by the Department of Health has identified Clostridium perfringens as the cause of the outbreak associated with the Pierre-Mitchell high school boys’ basketball game held in Pierre January 31. The investigation, which included voluntary questionnaires, implicated the tacos as the source food of the outbreak – of those completing questionnaires, 75% who ate the tacos reported becoming ill. The predominant symptoms were diarrhea and cramps lasting less than 24 hours, although the symptoms in some ill persons lasted longer. Three-quarters of the cases became ill between midnight and 6:00 AM following the game.

Clostridium perfringens is a bacterium that is sometimes found on raw meat and poultry products. It is also found in many environmental sources and in the intestines of animals and humans. Clostridium perfringens poisoning can occur when large quantities of food are prepared and kept at unsafe temperatures. Anyone can get food poisoning from Clostridium perfringens, but the very young and elderly are at highest risk. Dehydration may occur in severe cases. The illness is not passed from one person to another.

This type of food poisoning can be prevented by proper cooking and proper refrigeration. Meat dishes should be served hot, immediately after cooking. Leftover foods should be refrigerated at 40°F or lower. Large pots of food, such as soups or stews, or large cuts of meats, such as roasts or whole poultry, should be divided into small quantities for refrigeration. Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165°F before serving.