Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The bacteria may enter the body through wounds, or they may live in improperly canned or preserved food.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Clostridium botulinum is found in soil and untreated water throughout the world. It produces spores that survive in improperly preserved or canned food, where they produce toxin. When eaten, even tiny amounts of this toxin can lead to severe poisoning.
The foods most commonly contaminated are home-canned vegetables, cured pork and ham, smoked or raw fish, and honey or corn syrup. Botulism may also occur if the bacteria enter open wounds and produce toxins there.
Infant botulism occurs when a baby eats living bacteria or its spores and they grow in the baby's gastrointestinal tract. The most common cause of infant botulism is eating honey or corn syrup.
Clostridium botulinum also occurs normally in the stool of some infants.
About 110 cases of botulism occur in the U.S. per year. Most of the cases are in infants.
Symptoms usually appear 8 - 36 hours after you eat contaminated food. There is NO fever with this infection.
Blood tests can be done to identify the toxin. A stool culture may also be ordered. Lab tests can be done on the suspected food to confirm botulism.
You will get botulinus antitoxin.
For breathing trouble, you will have to stay in a hospital. The health care team will clear your airway and provide treatment. A tube may be inserted through the nose or mouth into the windpipe to provide an airway for oxygen. You may need a breathing machine.
Patients who have trouble swallowing may getintravenous fluids. A feeding tube may be inserted.
Health care providers report cases of botulism to state health authorities or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so that the contaminated food can be removed from stores.
Some people receive antibiotics, but they may not always help.
Prompt treatment significantly reduces the risk of death.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.