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Every year, there are only 145 reported cases of botulism, the majority of which are infant botulism victims. Though botulism is very rare illness, it is extremely dangerous and you should familiarize yourself with the causes and symptoms of this paralytic disease.
Botulism is an illness that arises when the human body is infected with Clostridium botulinum bacteria. These microorganisms typically reside in the soil in spore form, although when they enter the body they multiply and release dangerous toxins that affect the nervous system. Very small amounts of these bacteria must enter the body for the victim to suffer from botulism.
Those who contract botulism will feel the initial symptoms of vision impairment, muscle weakness, and difficulty swallowing. If the illness progresses in severity, then the victims will lose limb mobility through paralysis. In its final stages, botulism will prevent the respiratory muscles from functioning properly, causing the victim to lose his or her ability to breathe.
There are three types of botulism, two of which are food-borne and the third of which infects the body through an open wound or laceration:
- Food-borne Botulism: The infecting bacteria enter the body when the victim ingests contaminated food products. Typically, home-canned foods are the source of food-borne botulism, although mass-produced potatoes and garlic have also been contaminated in the past.
- Infant Botulism: The infecting bacteria enter the infant’s body through a medium like honey or corn syrup. They remain, multiply, and release toxins in the infant’s intestines.
- Wound Botulism: The bacteria enter the body through an open wound, such as a cut or laceration.
If you begin to notice any of the signs of botulism after eating any of these potentially hazardous foods, or after getting dirt inside an open wound, you should seek medical attention right away.