Botulism is a rare but serious illness. The cause is a toxin (poison) made by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. It occurs naturally in soil.

There are several kinds of botulism. Foodborne botulism comes from eating foods contaminated with the toxin. Wound botulism happens when a wound infected with the bacteria makes the toxin. It is more common in heroin users. Infant botulism happens when a baby consumes the spores of the bacteria from soil or honey. All forms can be deadly and are medical emergencies.

Symptoms include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. Treatment may include antitoxins, intensive medical care, or surgery of infected wounds.

To prevent botulism:

  • Be very careful when canning foods at home
  • Do not let babies eat honey
  • Get prompt medical care for infected wounds

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Symptoms of Botulism

The following features are indicative of Botulism:
  • double vision
  • drooping of both eyelids
  • loss of facial expression
  • disruptions in the autonomic nervous system
  • dry mouth
  • decreased production of saliva
  • decreased blood pressure on standing
  • lightheadedness
  • risk of blackouts
  • constipation
  • decreased peristalsis
  • swallowing problems
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • difficulty with talking

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Common Causes of Botulism

The following are the most common causes of Botulism:
  • Clostridium botulinum bacterium
  • consuming honey
  • consuming uncooked food
  • consuming preserved or canned foods
  • consuming soil that contains Clostridium botulinum spores
  • cosmetic use of inappropriate strengths of Botox

Risk Factors for Botulism

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Botulism:
  • consumption of honey in infants less than one year of age

Prevention of Botulism

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Botulism. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • eat properly cooked food
  • keep newborn babies away from soil until navel has completely healed and their umbilical stumps have dropped off completely
  • prepare, handle and store solid food for babies carefully

Occurrence of Botulism

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Botulism cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Extremely rare less than 1000 cases

Common Age Group

Botulism can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Botulism can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Botulism

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Botulism:
  • ELISA test: To detect botulinum neurotoxin in the specimen by using fluorescent or chemiluminescent substrates

Doctor for Diagnosis of Botulism

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Botulism:
  • Infectious disease specialist
  • Gastroenterologist
  • Neurologist

Complications of Botulism if untreated

Yes, Botulism causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Botulism is left untreated:
  • can be fatal

Procedures for Treatment of Botulism

The following procedures are used to treat Botulism:
  • Breathing assistance: Mechanical ventilator helps by forcing air into lungs that eases breathing

Self-care for Botulism

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Botulism:
  • Avoid preserved, home-canned or fermented foods: Reduces the chances of getting botulism
  • Keeping wounds clean: Prevent wound botulism

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Botulism

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Botulism:
  • Gamma irradiation of spores of Clostridia: Kill the spores without any loss of antibacterial activity that decreases the risk of botulism

Patient Support for Treatment of Botulism

The following actions may help Botulism patients:
  • Support in rehabilitation therapy: Family members and friends can help in the rehabilitation process

Time for Treatment of Botulism

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Botulism to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • More than 1 year

Is Botulism Infectious?

Yes, Botulism is known to be infectious. It can spread across people via the following means:
  • by eating food contaminated with the botulism toxin or spores

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Botulism.
Biodefense and Bioterrorism
Food Safety
Foodborne Illness

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