Botulism: Another Health Threatening Case

Botulism: Another Health Threatening Case

Botulism is a rare but potentially life-threatening bacterial illness that is caused by the ingestion of a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Botulism poisoning is extremely rare, but is so dangerous that each diagnosed case is considered a public health emergency. Studies have shown that there is a 35 to 65 percent chance of death for patients who are not treated immediately and effectively with botulism antitoxin.

Most of the botulism cases reported each year come from foods that are not canned properly at home. Infant botulism, the most commonly diagnosed form of botulism, is often associated with the consumption of honey by children under one year of age. Botulism from commercially canned food is rare, but commercial canned chili products were identified as the source of a botulism outbreak in 2007.

Botulism neurotoxins prevent neurotransmitters from functioning properly. This means that they inhibit motor control. As botulism progresses, the patient experiences paralysis from top to bottom, starting with the eyes and face and moving to the throat, chest, and extremities. When paralysis reaches the chest, death from inability to breathe results unless the patient is ventilated.

Photo from stuff.co.nz

Photo from stuff.co.nz

Symptoms of botulism generally appear 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. With treatment, illness lasts from 1 to 10 days. Full recovery from botulism poisoning can take weeks to months. Some people never fully recover.

In general, symptoms of botulism poisoning include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, double vision, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

This type of bacteria, often found in soil and water, is capable of producing harmful spores and toxin that can thrive in little or no oxygen. Experts say root crops such as potatoes could be susceptible to these bacteria while improperly prepared canned or preserved foods could also serve as habitat.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are relatively low cases of the disease. However, humans who contract the bacteria could suffer serious illness.

Among the symptoms of botulism include fatigue, weakness and vertigo. These early symptoms could be followed by difficulty in swallowing and blurred vision. At certain cases, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal swelling could occur.

Microbiologist Dr. Windell Rivera said extreme cases could occur if the disease is left untreated.

It may be a statement of the obvious, but the effects of botulism scare will last much longer than originally hoped or imagined.

It was revealed that the whey protein concentrate that has been in question for the past month, actually contained the harmless bacteria Clostridium sporogenes, not Clostridium botulinum. Prior to this being revealed, everyone thought it was Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria which causes botulism, that had been found.

The fall out from the botulism scare has been monumental: Products were recalled worldwide.

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