What is Botulism?
Botulism is a paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum and sometimes by strains of Clostridium butyricum and Clostridium baratii.
Types of Botulism and Causes
- Foodborne botulism: Caused by eating foods containing the botulinum toxin. Most frequently from improperly canned homemade food.
- Wound botulism: Caused by a wound infected by Clostridium botulinum. Normally found in drug users.
- Infant botulism: Happens when an infant consumes spores with the bacteria. It grows in the intestine and releases toxins.
- Adult Intestinal Toxemia: Very rare. Develops in the same way as infant botulism.
- Iatrogenic botulism: occurs from overdose of bolulinum toxin.
- double/blurred vision
- drooping eyelids
- slurred speech
- difficulty swallowing/dry mouth
- muscle weakness
- no appetite
- weak cry
- poor muscle tone
Symptoms generally occur between 18 and 36 hours but can occur as early as 6 hours or as late as 10 days.
- For severe paralysis or respiratory failure, a ventilator and medical care may be required. Paralysis slowly improves.
- Surgical removal of botulism in wounds
Botulism can cause death if left untreated. Over the past 50 years, patients that die from botulism has decreased from 50% to 3-5%. Patients may require a breathing machine and extensive medical care for months. Paralysis can last weeks or months. Fatigue and shortness of breath can last years.
- Foodborne botulism: Follow proper home-canning guidelines and prepare food safely.
- Wound botulism: Seek medical care for infected wounds. Avoid injectable street drugs.
- Infant botulism: Prevention is harder, because infants can contract botulism through dirt and dust. Refrain from giving children under 1 year old honey, which could cause botulism.
For more information on botulism, visit http://www.cdc.gov/botulism/index.html.
For more information on safe home-canning methods, visit http://www.cdc.gov/botulism/consumer.html.