California botulism outbreak is rare case of deadly disease

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

This undated image shows the Valley Oak Food & Fuel gas station in Walnut Grove, Calif.
This undated image shows the Valley Oak Food & Fuel gas station in Walnut Grove, Calif.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A deadly botulism outbreak linked to contaminated nacho-cheese dip sold in a California gas station is a rare case of the disease that can cause paralysis and death.

The outbreak in the Sacramento area left one man dead and sent nine people to a hospital.

Here are some things to know about botulism:



The National Organization for Rare Disorders says there were 199 confirmed and 14 probable cases of botulism reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015, the last year for which statistics were available.

More than 70 percent involved infants, and foodborne botulism comprised 20 percent of cases.

VIDEO: Man dies after contracting botulism from NorCal gas station food

The family of a man battling a severe case of botulism after eating food at a Sacramento-area gas station says he has passed away.



Foodborne botulism can be acquired by eating foods contaminated with botulinum toxin. Homemade foods that have been improperly canned, preserved, or fermented are common sources.

Less common are contaminated store-bought foods. In the California case, the cheese manufacturer says the toxin was not found in the cheese product.

Other types include wound botulism, in which spores of the bacteria get into a wound and make a toxin; infant botulism affecting a baby's intestines; and latrogenic botulism, which occurs if too much botulinum toxin - Botox - is injected for cosmetic or medical reasons, such as treating migraine headaches.



Foodborne botulism can lead to paralysis, breathing difficulty and sometimes death. Survivors often need to spend weeks or months on ventilators.

Additional symptoms include difficulty swallowing or speaking, dry mouth, facial weakness, blurred or double vision, drooping eyelids, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Many of the same signs and symptoms apply for wound botulism and infant botulism.

The Mayo Clinic reports that symptoms of foodborne botulism typically begin between 12 and 36 hours after the toxin gets into a body.

However, the time can range from a few hours to several days, depending on the amount of toxin ingested.

VIDEO:: 5 confirmed cases of botulism from Northern California gas station food

Botulism reared its ugly head in Northern California and left patients paralyzed or even fighting for their lives.



Experts advise seeking urgent medical care. Early treatment increases the chance of survival and lessens the risk of complications.

Seeking care promptly may also alert public health authorities and lead to warnings about eating contaminated food.

The Mayo Clinic says an injected antitoxin can reduce the risk of complications.

Many people recover fully, but it might take months and extended rehabilitation therapy.

The majority of botulism patients never fully recover. Long-term effects most often include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, dry mouth, and difficulty performing strenuous tasks.

Patients also report a generally less happy and peaceful psychological state than before their illness.