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What Should I Know About Botulism?

 Posted on June 01, 2023 in Uncategorized


Botulism poisoning is a paralytic, rare illness that is caused by Clostridium Botulinum, a toxin-producing bacterium which attacks the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves). The first case of this neuroparalytic syndrome was reported in the 1820s.

Over the years, several outbreaks of Botulism have been reported, of which the most dangerous one occurred in 2018 when 242 people suffered Botulism poisoning. If not treated on time, Botulism can lead to respiratory problems, paralysis, and even death. Keep reading to learn some interesting facts about Botulism Poisoning.

Types of Botulism Poisoning

Botulism can attach itself to your nerves, weakening them and making it difficult for you to talk, swallow, move, and breathe. Listed below are the common types of Botulism poisoning:

1. Foodborne Botulism

Foodborne Botulism occurs when a person ingests food that contains Clostridium Botulinum toxins. This can include improperly stored foods such as bottled garlic, canned tomatoes, carrot juice, oil-infused herbs, and canned cheese sausages.

2. Infant Botulism

Infecting babies up to 6 months, Infant Botulism happens if children swallow botulinum spores. Babies can come in contact with bacterial spores via honey, dust, or spoil. The immature digestive system of infants allows the Clostridium Botulinum spores to grow rapidly.

3. Wound Botulism

The Clostridium Botulinum spores can easily attack an untreated wound and produce toxins, causing Wound Botulism. It is commonly associated with puncture injuries, contaminated wounds, and the use of drugs involving needles like heroin.

4. Adult Intestinal Botulism

Also called Adult Intestinal Colonization, this rare form of Botulism poisoning happens when the bacterium starts to grow and produce toxins within your gastrointestinal tract.

Causes of Botulism

Botulism poisoning is caused by a bacteria named Clostridium Botulinum. This bacteria is usually found in the following:

● Preserved or canned vegetables such as mushrooms, green beans, spinach, and beets

● Canned tuna fish

● Meat products like sausage and ham

● Salted, smoked, and fermented fish

In simpler words, any kind of improperly preserved or canned homemade food can be a source of Botulism poisoning. In fact 2015, the biggest Botulism outbreak was reported in the United States, sourced from contaminated home-canned potatoes eaten at a potluck meal.

Ironically, your body might be exposed to Clostridium Botulinum, and you may not even notice until the spores mature. The bacteria then release toxins that can spread into your bloodstream and attach themselves to your nerves. The Clostridium Botulinum spores grow and develop in an environment with:

● Lack of oxygen

● Too warm storage temperature

● Humidity

● Low cooking temperature

● Low salt, sugar, or acidity

Symptoms of Botulism

In infants, mild to severe symptoms of Botulism might develop after 3 to 30 days of exposure to the Clostridium Botulinum bacteria. Signs of Infant Botulism in babies include:

● Drooling

● Difficult breathing

● Floppiness or breathing

● Constipation

● Ptosis (Drooping eyelids)

● Weakened cry

● Facial expression loss

● Reduced gag reflux

● Poor or slow feeding

Conversely, the symptoms of Botulism in adults and older children typically infect the muscles of the throat, eyes, and face and might spread to other body parts if not treated on time. Signs of Botulism poisoning can appear within a few hours or several days of ingestion of the Clostridium Botulinum spores. These symptoms can include:

● Vomiting

● Nausea

● Paralysis or weakness in the legs or arms

● Difficulty breathing

● Dysphagia (Difficulty swallowing)

● Slurred speech

● Xerostomia (Dry mouth)

● Blurred or double vision

● Ptosis (Drooping eyelids)

Note that foodborne Botulism symptoms can appear within 12 to 36 hours of consuming the contaminated food. In fact, according to a study, you might test positive for Botulism poisoning even after 12 days of ingestion.

Diagnosis of Botulism Poisoning

In order to diagnose Botulism poisoning, the healthcare provider will conduct a physical examination to check for paralyzed or weak muscles. They will also ask you for symptoms and will confirm the diagnosis by testing your stool, vomit, or blood for toxins. In severe cases, the healthcare provider might also perform a brain scan, spinal fluid exam, or muscle function and nerve tests.

Botulism Treatment

The treatment for Botulism poisoning can vary depending on the cause and severity of the bacterial infection. In the majority of cases, the doctor might prescribe you a medication named “Antitoxin.” This helps to block the toxin activity in the bloodstream, preventing them from causing any further damage. However, know that the antitoxin cannot heal or provide a cure for Botulism. It only slows down the spread of the bacterial infection.

If you experience respiratory issues or are diagnosed with Wound Botulism, the healthcare provider may recommend hospital admission for effective treatment and care. You might also need surgery to remove the contaminated area of the wound. The doctor will then prescribe you antibiotics to prevent the bacteria from returning.

Botulism Poisoning Prevention

You can use the following precautions to protect yourself from Botulism.

Infant Botulism

● Avoid giving honey to babies under 1 year.

● Try to breastfeed your little one as much as possible.

Wound Botulism

● Immediately clean soil and dirt wounds.

● Seek medical treatment for infectious wounds with signs of swelling, pus, tenderness, and redness.

● Never misuse injectable drugs.

Foodborne Botulism

● Don’t eat or drink expired foods.

● Before using home-canned foods, sterilize them in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes at 121 degrees Celsius (250 degrees Fahrenheit).

● Do not use damaged containers.

● Cook food properly.

● Avoid keeping cooked food on the kitchen counter for more than 2 hours. Refrigerate it within 120 minutes of cooking.

Hire a Botulism Poisoning Attorney Today!

Even though rare, if left untreated, Botulism poisoning can become a life-threatening illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 110 cases of Botulism poisoning are reported in the United States every year, of which 25% are cases of foodborne Botulism. You can get Botulism poisoning from eating anything infected with the Clostridium Botulinum spores, such as a salad bowl at the park or a can of fresh vegetables.

Understanding the severity of Botulism, the food poisoning attorney at Newland & Newland, LLP can help you sue the responsible party and get a financial award for the missed workdays, mental anguish, and bank-breaking healthcare bills. Contact us to schedule a consultation with a food poisoning attorney in Arlington Heights, Chicago, Libertyville, Crystal Lake, Itasca, and Joliet.

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