Botulism is a rare but very dangerous form of food poisoning caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. As Clostridium bacteria multiply, they release a potent neurotoxin or nerve toxin. This neurotoxin attacks the central nervous system of the victim, starting with the muscles of the eyes and face. The first symptoms may be blurred vision, dry mouth and trouble swallowing. The sufferer may complain of double vision and dizziness and drooping eyelids. The sufferer may also experience muscle weakness, and speech may be slurred. Babies and very young children will complain of lethargy, lethargy and constipation. All these symptoms reflect the process of progressive muscle paralysis.
If treatment is not started, the paralysis progresses to the throat and chest, and then to the arms and legs, the abdominal muscles, and the muscles that control breathing. When the neurotoxin affects the diaphragm and other chest muscles, breathing is interrupted, and if the patient is not treated aggressively, he may die of asphyxiation.
One of the difficulties in treating botulism is up front. Botulism can be diagnosed by symptoms, but to rule out other possible diseases or sources of neurotoxins, a laboratory test should be performed that requires a sample of the patient’s blood or stool to be injected into a mouse; It takes 48 hours to determine whether bacteria are growing in the mouse. If botulism is suspected, and diagnosis is prompt, treatment may focus on removing any remaining contaminated food by vomiting or starting an enema. Treatment will also include an antitoxin, a substance that interferes with the action of botulin toxin in the bloodstream. Antitoxin treatment can stop the progression of the disease, but the patient may continue to experience disabling symptoms for months. If the disorder has progressed to involve the respiratory muscles, the patient may require a ventilator to assist with breathing.
Spores of Clostridium bacteria are widely distributed in soil, both wild and farmed, in lake and stream beds, and in animals, in the intestinal tract of mammals and fish, and in the gills of crabs and shellfish. Despite its prevalence, Clostridium botulinum only becomes a threat when conditions are ripe for the spores to grow and produce their potent neurotoxin. Failure to bring food to a temperature high enough to kill the spores, contaminated canning or preservation equipment, and unpeeled fish (their guts are discarded when canned) have all been implicated in outbreaks of botulism.
Many cases of botulism result from home canning, especially green beans, in which the temperature was not high enough to kill all the spores. Sausages, baby food, and packaged foods such as smoked salmon spread, chili, and beef stew have all been identified as sources of botulism poisoning. Any can that looks swollen is suspicious and should not be used.
If you or a loved one has suffered the serious effects of botulism poisoning, and you believe that improperly prepared food was the source of the poisoning, you should see an experienced food poisoning attorney as soon as possible to see if For whether you have a claim. You must act as soon as possible before evidence can identify that the food source has been lost or destroyed.