DESCRIPTIONBotulism is a serious, non-contagious form of food poisoning caused by eating contaminated food containing a toxin that severely affects the nervous system. The central nervous system and the muscular system are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Hospitalization for intensive care. A respirator may be necessary.
Self-care after diagnosis.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSBlurred or double vision; drooping eyelids; dry mouth; slurred speech; swallowing difficulty.
Vomiting and diarrhea.
Weakness of the arms and legs, leading to paralysis.
No fever; no disturbance of mental abilities.
The following symptoms appear in infants: severe constipation; feeble cry; inability to suck.
The following symptoms usually appear suddenly 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food:
CAUSESInfection with bacteria, clostridium botulinum, found in contaminated or incompletely cooked, canned foods, including honey. This germ generates a powerful poison (toxin) that is absorbed from the digestive tract and spreads to the central nervous system.
Foods likely to cause botulism include home-canned vegetables and fruits and undercooked sausage, smoked meats, and fish. In infants under 1 year, raw honey or other uncooked foods may cause botulism.
The bacteria also may contaminate a wound and produce the toxin.
Home-canned foods. Green beans are especially susceptible to spoilage.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
If a can is bulging, or the contents have a peculiar color or odor, don't even taste the food.
Don't eat any foods not definitely known to be properly cooked and canned.
Don't give infants honey in foods or cough suppressants.
Call your local home-extension service for details about canning food and cooking it safely.
Call your local health department if you suspect botulism. The health department can notify the news media to alert others in danger and require retailers to remove contaminated food from store shelves.
Your own observation of symptoms--especially if several persons eat the same food and become sick.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory blood tests.
Laboratory analysis of suspected food.
Lung infections as a result of impaired swallowing and choking on food.
Respiratory failure caused by weak breathing muscles.
With prompt care, the outlook is good. The larger the toxin dose and the sooner symptoms begin, the more dangerous the condition. The overall death rate is 10% to 25%.
Induce vomiting, if it is only a few hours since the poisoned food was eaten.
If you suspect botulism, refrigerate some of the contaminated food for laboratory testing, if possible.
Botulism antitoxin injections prevent the condition from worsening. The antitoxin is available through the Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia. The anti-toxin is derived from horse serum. It is life-saving but has serious side effects.
Bed rest is necessary during hospitalization. After treatment, the child can resume normal activities gradually.
DIET & FLUIDS
Intravenous fluids and foods are usually necessary during hospitalization because of swallowing difficulty. After treatment, no special diet is necessary, except to avoid honey for children under 2 years of age.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When signs of infection have decreased, appetite returns, and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of botulism. Call an ambulance immediately. This is an emergency!
Weakness, blurred vision, or slurred speech occur after returning from intensive care. These may signal a need for additional treatment.