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
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Frozen, Fully-Cooked Products and Botulism--Food Safety Advisory (Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service)
Treatments and Therapies
- FDA Approves First Botulism Antitoxin for Use in Neutralizing All Seven Known Botulinum Nerve Toxin Serotypes (Food and Drug Administration)
- Home Canning and Botulism (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Facts about Botulism (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Statistics and Research
- National Enteric Disease Surveillance: Botulism Annual Summary, 2012 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF