What is botulism?
Botulism is a serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. There are three main kinds of botulism, including: (1) food-borne botulism, which is caused by eating foods that contain the botulism toxin; (2) wound botulism, which is caused by toxin produced from a wound infected with Clostridium botulinum; and (3) infant botulism, which is caused by consuming the spores of the botulinum bacteria, which then grow in the intestines and release toxin. All three forms of botulism can be fatal. They are considered to be medical emergencies by the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”).
Special note regarding food-borne botulism: Food-bourne botulism can be especially dangerous because many people can be poisoned by eating a contaminated food.
What are the symptoms of botulism?
The classic symptoms of botulism in children and adults include:
- double vision
- blurred vision
- drooping eyelids
- slurred speech
- difficulty swallowing
- dry mouth
- and muscle weakness
Infants may exhibit different symptoms from adults, including:
- appearing lethargic
- feeding poorly
- being constipated
- having a weak cry
- having poor muscle tone
All of the above symptoms are symptoms of muscle paralysis that is caused by the bacterial toxin. If untreated, these symptoms may progress to cause paralysis of the arms, legs, trunk and respiratory muscles. In food-borne botulism, symptoms generally begin approximately 18 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food, but they can occur as early as 6 hours or as late as 10 days after eating contaminated food. If you or a loved one are exhibiting these symptoms, you should contact a physician immediately.
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