Botulism (BAH-chu-lih-zum) is a rare but serious illness caused by poisons produced
by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Foodborne botulism occurs when someone
eats food contaminated with the bacteria.
More to Know
Clostridium botulinum is a naturally occurring bacterium that can be found
in soil and dust. When C. botulinum infects a person, it produces toxins
(poisons) that cause nerves
to function abnormally, leading to weakness and paralysis.
Most cases of foodborne botulism are due to home-canned foods that aren't
prepared or stored properly.
Symptoms of botulism include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred
speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. In infants, symptoms
include constipation, a
flat facial expression, poor feeding, a weak cry, decreased movement, trouble swallowing,
excessive drooling, muscle
weakness, and breathing problems.
If not treated, botulism can cause respiratory failure, paralysis, and death. Botulism
is usually treated in a hospital with an antitoxin that blocks the toxins produced
by the bacteria. In some cases, ventilators may be used to help with breathing
Keep in Mind
Botulism can be fatal, so anyone who shows signs of the disease should receive
immediate medical attention. Fortunately, botulism is extremely rare, with about 145
cases reported in the United States each year. With proper treatment, most people
recover fully from botulism, but this can take several weeks or months.
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