Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by a bacterium which occurs in soil. It produces a toxin that affects your nerves. Foodborne botulism comes from eating foods contaminated with the toxin.
Infants: Honey, home-canned vegetables and fruits, corn syrup
Children and adults: Home-canned foods with a low acid content, improperly canned commercial foods, home-canned or fermented fish, herb-infused oils, baked potatoes in aluminum foil, cheese sauce, bottled garlic, foods held warm for extended periods of time.
How is botulism diagnosed?
Physicians may consider the diagnosis if the patient’s history and physical examination suggest botulism. However, these clues are usually not enough to allow a diagnosis of botulism.Other diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, stroke, and myasthenia gravis can appear similar to botulism, and special tests may be needed to exclude these other conditions.These tests may include a brain scan, spinal fluid examination, nerve conduction test (electromyography, or EMG), and a tensilon test for myasthenia gravis.
How can botulism be treated?
The respiratory failure and paralysis that occur with severe botulism may require a patient to be on a breathing machine (ventilator) for weeks or months, plus intensive medical and nursing care. The paralysis slowly improves. Botulism can be treated with an antitoxin which blocks the action of toxin circulating in the blood.
How can botulism be prevented?
Many cases of botulism are preventable. Foodborne botulism has often been from home-canned foods with low acid content, such as asparagus, green beans, beets and corn and is caused by failure to follow proper canning methods. However, seemingly unlikely or unusual sources are found every decade, with the common problem of improper handling during manufacture, at retail, or by consumers; some examples are chopped garlic in oil, canned cheese sauce, chile peppers, tomatoes, carrot juice, and baked potatoes wrapped in foil. In Alaska, foodborne botulism is caused by fermented fish and other aquatic game foods.
Persons who do home canning should follow strict hygienic procedures to reduce contamination of foods.
Carefully follow instructions on safe home canning including the use of pressure canners/cookers as recommended through county extension services or from the US Department of Agriculture.
Oils infused with garlic or herbs should be refrigerated. Potatoes which have been baked while wrapped in aluminum foil should be kept hot until served or refrigerated. Because the botulinum toxin is destroyed by high temperatures.
To prevent botulism:
- Be very careful when canning foods at home
- Do not let babies eat honey
Honey can contain the bacteria that causes infant botulism so, children less than 12 months old should not be fed honey. Honey is safe for persons 1 year of age and older.
source: Medline plus