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Botulism Cases in the U.S.
Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.
Clostridium botulinum is a group of bacteria commonly found in soil. These rod-shaped organisms grow best in low oxygen conditions. There are seven types of botulism toxin designated by the letters A through G; only types A, B, E and F cause illness in humans.
In the United States an average of 110 cases of botulism are reported each year. Outbreaks of foodborne botulism involving two or more persons occur most years and usually caused by eating contaminated home-canned foods. The number of cases of foodborne and infant botulism has changed little in recent years, but wound botulism has increased because of the use of black-tar heroin, especially in California.
Three Types of Botulism:
Foodborne botulism is caused by eating foods that contain the botulism toxin.
Wound botulism is caused by toxin produced from a wound infected with Clostridium botulinum.
Infant botulism is caused by consuming the spores of the botulinum bacteria, which then grow in the intestines and release toxin.
All forms of botulism can be fatal and are considered medical emergencies. Foodborne botulism can be especially dangerous because many people can be poisoned by eating a contaminated food.
The classic symptoms of botulism include:
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov