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Recalling The Big Botulism Outbreak of 1978 in Clovis, New Mexico

Clovis, New Mexico is usually known for Cannon Air Force Base and the Norman Petty Recording Studios. Cannon is home of the Air Force’s Special Operations Command. Petty’s studio recorded Buddy Holly’s first chart-topping hits. Clovis, however, is known for something else. Something that happened 30 years ago—a botulism outbreak that killed two and made 30 others sick, some very seriously.

Don McAlavy, Clovis News Journal columnist, recalled what happened:

One of the most dreaded food-borne poisons known to man struck Curry County on Friday night, April 4, 1978. A group of people were at a banquet in the old Colonial Park Country Club that night. Some 30 members of that group became slightly ill to very ill. It was the dreaded botulism that killed two people in that group. One of them was John Garrett Jr., a noted farmer at Claud.

Dr. Jonathan Mann, state health officer, said the area is extremely fortunate that help for the victims were able to mobilize to assist victims in this tragic case. Cannon AFB Hospital had air-evacuation aircraft to fly patients to Albuquerque when first alerted.

All day Saturday and Sunday, volunteers from all walks of life called the hundreds of people that were known to have eaten at the club in the past week.

As patients were hospitalized in Clovis, Albuquerque, Lubbock, Amarillo, El Paso and Santa Fe, Dr. Mann arranged for anti-toxin to be flown in from all over the country.

For the rest of McAlavy’s look-back, go here.

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