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Published On: Wed, Dec 11th, 2013

Amarillo health officials investigate botulism cases

The City of Amarillo Department of Public Health (DPH) is investigating at least four cases of botulism, according to a press release Wednesday.

Health officials say that a suspected case of botulism was reported to them Friday and after an investigation over the weekend, three additional cases  were discovered.

As of today, each of the four identified cases remains hospitalized.

According to health officials, so far, two patients have met the treatment criteria and received the botulism antitoxin. They are improving slowly. All four patients know at least one of the other ill patients; three have had social contact at a local residence.

No definitive link between the cases and a specific restaurant, workplace, school or church has been identified. Nor has any specific food or contaminant been identified to date.

Physicians and other health providers are being asked to watch for the signs and symptoms of botulism. 

In the release by Dr. Roger Smalligan, MD, MPH, the City of Amarillo DPH and Environmental Health (EH) continue to investigate these cases and are communicating daily with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. Earlier this week, DPH and EH submitted food, environmental, and clinical samples for testing to state and federal laboratories. Test results are expected in the next few days.

Food borne botulism is a severe intoxication caused by eating the preformed toxin present in contaminated food.

Food borne botulism occurs when the bacterium Clostridium botulinum is allowed to grow and produce toxin in food that is later eaten without sufficient heating or cooking to inactivate the toxin. Botulinum toxin is one of the most potent neurotoxins known.

Growth of this anaerobic bacteria and the formation of the toxin tend to happen in products with low acidity and oxygen content and low salt and sugar content. Inadequately processed, home-canned foods like asparagus, green beans, beets, and corn have commonly been implicated.

However, there have been outbreaks of botulism from more unusual sources such as chopped garlic in oil, chili peppers, improperly handled baked potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil and home-canned or fermented fish. Garden foods like tomatoes, which used to be considered too acidic for the growth of Clostridium botulinum, is now considered a potentially hazardous food in home canning.

Though more common in home-canned foods, it does happen occasionally in commercially prepared foods.

Typically in a few hours to several days after you eat the contaminated food you will start to show the classic symptoms; blurred vision, dry mouth, and difficulty in swallowing. Gastrointestinal symptoms may or may not occur. If untreated, the paralysis always descends through the body starting at the shoulders and working its way down.

The most serious complication of botulism is respiratory failure where it is fatal in up to 10% of people. It may take months before recovery is complete.

If the disease is caught early enough it can be treated with antitoxin. If paralysis and respiratory failure happen, the person may be on a ventilator for several weeks.

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page

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Botulism is often associated with home-canning Image/CDC

Botulism is often associated with home-canning
Image/CDC

 

 

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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