Botulism Outbreak

Botulism is caused by the botulinum toxin, whose mechanism of action is deadly. Patients suffering from the poisoning of this disease experienced either toxin injection or food poisoning.

What is it?

Botulism is a rare, paralytic illness caused by a toxin produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Foodborne botulism happens when food contaminated with the toxin is ingested. Wound botulism happens from injecting street drugs. But the most common type of botulism is infancy botulism. This typically happens to children less than six months old due to the fact that their protective mechanisms have not yet developed.

Where is it located?

An average of about 145 cases of botulism are reported in the US every year, with about 15% being foodborne, 20% from wounds, and 65% infancy. Cases have also been reported in 26 other countries across five different continents.

How will it kill you?

The disease begins with weakness, trouble seeing, feeling tired, and difficulty speaking as well as a drooping of the eyelids, loss of facial expression, and problems with talking and swallowing. These paralytic symptoms are caused by a blockade of neurotransmitter release at the voluntary motor and autonomic muscular junctions. To see more about neurotransmitters, watch this animation. Death occurs when movement of the respiratory muscles are also reduced, causing problems with gas exchange and a buildup of unexhaled carbon dioxide, resulting in a depressant effect on the brain.

How to survive?

The botulinum toxin in food can be easily destroyed by cooking the food thoroughly over the course of a few minutes. But for those who have already been diagnosed with the illness, the primary form of treatment is through the combined use of the human botulinum immunoglobulin antitoxin as well as supportive care. Respiratory failure due to paralysis may also require the aid of a ventilator. After a few weeks, the paralysis will slowly improve and the antitoxin will block the action of toxin circulating in the blood.


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