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05/03/24 Public Health Education Topic: Botulism

Per CDC:

Botulism (“BOT-choo-liz-um”) is a rare but serious illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves and causes difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis, and even death. This toxin is made by Clostridium botulinum and sometimes Clostridium butyricum and Clostridium baratii bacteria. These bacteria can produce the toxin in food, wounds, and the intestines of infants.

Signs and symptoms might include:

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Muscle weakness

  • Double vision

  • Drooping eyelids

  • Blurry vision

  • Slurred speech

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Difficulty moving the eyes

Possible signs and symptoms in foodborne botulism might also include:

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

  • Stomach pain

  • Diarrhea

Signs and symptoms in an infant might include:

  • Constipation

  • Poor feeding

  • Drooping eyelids

  • Pupils that are slow to react to light

  • Face showing less expression than usual

  • Weak cry that sounds different than usual

  • Difficulty breathing

People with botulism might not have all of these symptoms at the same time.

The symptoms all result from muscle paralysis caused by the toxin. If untreated, the disease may progress and symptoms may worsen to cause full paralysis of some muscles, including those used in breathing and those in the arms, legs, and trunk (part of the body from the neck to the pelvis area, also called the torso).

In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food.

If you or someone you know has symptoms of botulism, immediately see your doctor or go to the emergency room.


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