The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced a new joint initiative this week with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) to help reduce the effect of foodborne illness outbreaks in that state. A hotline called IowaSic is now available for residents of that state to call if they think they have been sickened with food poisoning.
That hotline number is 1-844-469-2742 (844-IowaSic) and will be answered by trained specialists. Those specialists will start an investigation into the cause and source of the illness.
IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk said in a statement, “these departments have joined forces to establish a statewide one-call system Iowans can use to report illnesses associated with food poisoning.” Most food poisoning outbreaks are solved relatively slowly, when a number of people who have been sickened see their doctors, and public health officials are alerted.
Dr. Quinlisk said, “Iowa was the first state to positively identify the cause of the 2013 Cyclospora outbreak, which permitted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to trace it back to the source. Had the IowaSic hotline and supporting processes been in place in 2013 it’s possible the duration and impact of the outbreak could have been reduced.”
That particular outbreak sickened at least 127 people in Iowa, Nebraska, and other Midwest states. Epidemiologists and food safety experts were able to trace the cause of that outbreak to fresh produce that was grown and packaged in Mexico and imported into the United States. The contaminated product was distributed to a national restaurant chain where it was eaten by consumers in the states of Iowa and Nebraska.
The hotline specialists will ask those who call about their symptoms, symptom onset, and the duration of the illness. They will also complete a food history of everything the caller can remember eating or drinking for the past several days. These illnesses that are associated with foods purchased from or consumed at food establishments will be investigated by staff with the DIA’s Food and Consumer Safety Bureau.
If you live in Iowa and think you have food poisoning after eating at a restaurant or public gathering, or eating food purchased at a grocery store, convenience store, or market, call the hotline for help.