Health Tip: Botulism

Be aware of the foodborne type

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(HealthDayNews) -- Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by toxic clostridium botulinum bacteria, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The toxin affects the nerves and can cause paralysis and respiratory failure. Each year, U.S. health care providers report an average of 10 to 30 cases of food botulism, which can be fatal if not treated quickly and properly.

Cases of foodborne botulism often stem from home-canned foods with low acid content, such as asparagus, green beans, beets and corn. The bacteria are anaerobic, which means they can survive and grow with little or no oxygen. Sealed containers are ideal.

Symptoms of foodborne botulism include double vision and drooping eyelids, slurred speech, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, and weak muscles. Symptoms usually begin within 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food.

If diagnosed early, botulism can be treated successfully with an antitoxin that blocks the action of the bacterial toxin circulating in the blood. Although this keeps the disease from becoming worse, recovery usually takes weeks.

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