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Food Poisoning Botulism

What is botulism?

Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum toxin. The neurotoxin releases a poison that mainly attacks the body’s nerves which then leads to difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis, and even death.

How is botulism caused?

Foodborne botulism is often caused by eating home-canned foods that have not been canned properly. Commercial canning processes kill C. botulinum spores, making it much less likely for commercially canned food to be a cause of botulism.

What are the types of botulism?

There are a lot of factors that go into getting infected with the bacteria. However, there are many ways for humans to acquire botulism but these are the five major types: foodborne botulism, infant botulism, wound botulism, iatrogenic botulism, or adult intestinal toxemia.

Who is at risk for botulism?

The bottom line is, botulism is a very rare disease but it is one of the deadliest. Prisoners who drink homemade alcohol, such as pruno or hooch, are at greater risk of getting foodborne botulism. People who consume home-canned or home-fermented foods that haven’t been prepared properly also are at a greater risk of becoming seriously sick. These foods may include many types of meat and vegetables that are canned at home, as well as fermented Alaskan Native food. The good news is, most people live their entire lives without ever getting infected with botulism.

When do symptoms of botulism appear?

The onset of symptoms for botulism depends on the way a person has acquired the bacteria. In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food.

What are the symptoms of botulism and how long do they last?

Despite the types of botulism bacteria, the symptoms are usually the same. The most telling symptom of the disease is a weakness that begins on both sides of your face that goes down to your neck, and then all the way to the rest of your body. Other signs and symptoms may include the following and will last for about 8-12 weeks:

  • Difficulty swallowing and breathing
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Muscle weakness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Difficulty moving the eyes
  • Slurred speech

But there can also be presence of the following common symptoms of foodborne illnesses: 

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea

Does botulism cause any complications? 

The symptoms of botulism all come from muscle paralysis caused by the toxin. Without treatment, the disease may progress and cause full paralysis in breathing muscles or other body parts (such as arms, legs, and torso). 

How is botulism diagnosed? 

Your doctor might check for symptoms of botulism, such as muscle weakness, a weak voice, and drooping eyelids. They will also ask you about foods eaten or given to the baby. The attending physician may order a lab test to analyze your blood or stool sample. Other tests may be needed such as: 

Nerve and muscle function tests. Electromyography can also aid in confirming a case of botulism. 

Brain scan. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan of the brain can rule out other reasons for the symptoms, such as stroke. 

Tensilon test. This is done to rule out myasthenia gravis, which has similar symptoms. 

Spinal fluid exam. A person with botulism typically has a slight increase in protein levels in their cerebrospinal fluid, but this is considered normal for the disease. 

What is the treatment for botulism? 

Botulism happens when the bacteria's neurotoxin is released into a person's body and attacks the body’s nerves which results in breathing difficulties, muscle paralysis, and even death. 

Doctors usually prescribe an antitoxin, which prevents the further toxin from causing any more harm to the body. Unfortunately, the antitoxin does not have the ability to heal the damage the toxin has already done. Depending on how severe your symptoms are, you may need to stay in the hospital for weeks or even months.

What can you do to prevent botulism? 

Make sure your hands and other items are as clean as possible before canning food. To reduce the chance of contaminating your food, it is important to clean and store the food properly. 

The botulism toxin is easily eradicated through exposure to high temperatures, so if you’re eating home-canned food, you may want to boil it for about 10 minutes to kill the bacteria. Proper refrigeration can also help prevent the growth of C. botulinum, too. 

Read more

Recent Botulism Reports

Now, Campbells canned soup Really bad upset stomach | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting See Less

03/26/2023, Great Value Organic canned black beans. I ate the beans and almost immediately felt like I had a light rock in my stomach. It progressively got worse with severe nausea. I felt like I had to walk without disturbing my stomach. Eventually I went to bed... See More and started to feel like I had the chills. I slept a couple of hours only to wake having to rush to the bathroom. I projectile vomited all over the bathroom walls, toilet, floor and myself. I immediately felt relief, with no stomach ache but the nausea remains slightly. 24 hours later and I have a slight fever of 99.1, my skin hurts and my kidneys and back ache. | Symptoms: Nausea, Fever, Vomiting, Other, Chills, Stomach Pain See Less

I stopped by the restaurant after work and ordered a chicken sandwich and a fruit cup, I was hesitant to stop because it was around 8- 9’ o’clock and felt it was close to closing. There were no lines. I ordered my food scanned my rewards QR... See More code, And headed home. After. I ate my food I watched a little bit of a movie, took a shower, then went to bed. I only ate the chicken sandwich; which had tomato’s and lettuce added. I did not eat the fruit. Around 2-3am my stomach was aching. I was extremely sick, I was sweating and I had a intense case of diarrhea. This went on all nite and it is still going on. But the diarrhea has slowed but now there is blood in my stool and my stomach is still cramping. I am having chili’s off and on and last night I had a excruciating headache. I love chick- fil-a and was very surprised I got sick eating there. Perhaps it was a bad batch of chicken. I will be staying away from there for a while.I spent $10.82 on 3/23. I paid with my Visa card. | Symptoms: Nausea, Diarrhea, Headache, Sweating, Cramps See Less

Campbells Chicken Pub Style Pot Pie. Ate this as a midnight snack, began vomiting the moment I woke up in the morning. I have a fever, chills, muscle and joint pains, as well as nausea. My stomach is in so much pain I doubled over. Will never... See More eat this brand again and I don’t know if I will ever be eating canned soup. | Symptoms: Nausea, Vomiting, Fever, Chills, Joint Pain, Muscle Pain See Less

Grayson, GA, USA

1 week ago

Suspected food poisoning. Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Chills, Headache, other: Other
Suspected source: Canned crab
Onset: 4 to 12 hours
Duration: 12 to 24 hours
Sick: Me
Additional information: Foamy, watery diarrhea. I purchased Kroger brand canned white crab meat at the Kroger in Grayson, GA. Additionally... See More I purchased fresh green onions at the Aldi on US Hwy 78 in Loganville, GA. Used both in this recipe. | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Chills, Headache See Less

Was enjoying their canned chickpeas with greek herbs . When I got to the bottom of the can noticed a chunky gray film (more than usual) with beans . Immediately diarrhea/fever/vomit for almost 10 Days straight . | Symptoms: Nausea, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Fever See Less

Suspected food poisoning. Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Stomach Pain, Chills
Suspected source: Canned chicken
Onset: 4 to 12 hours
Duration: 12 to 24 hours | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Stomach Pain, Chills See Less

Suspected food poisoning. Symptoms: Vomiting, Stomach Pain, Headache
Suspected source: Canned beef ravioli
Onset: Less than 4 hours
Duration: other: Other
Sick: A loved one
Additional information: Chef Boyardee beef ravioli Best buy Nov 26, 2023 bought from here online | Symptoms: Vomiting, Stomach Pain, Headache See Less

Suspected food poisoning. Symptoms: Diarrhea, other: Other
Suspected source: Clam chowder
Onset: Right away
Duration: 12 to 24 hours
Sick: Me
Additional information: Dizziness strongest at 12 hour mark, after sleeping. Family THINKS this is where the canned food was bought but isn't sure. Any other possible... See More place would be within 5 miles. It was not expired food. | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Dizziness See Less

Suspected food poisoning. Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Stomach Pain, Cramps, Chills, Headache
Suspected source: Swanson canned chicken breast
Onset: Less than 4 hours
Duration: Several days
Sick: Me | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Stomach Pain, Cramps, Chills, Headache See Less

Last 30 days