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Botulism

Summary

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

Start Here

  • (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in

Prevention and Risk Factors

  • (Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service)

Related Issues

  • (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in

Specifics

  • (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Videos and Tutorials

  • Video (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Statistics and Research

  • (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF
  • (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

Find an Expert

  • From the National Institutes of Health

Children

  • (Nemours Foundation)
  • (American Academy of Pediatrics) Also in
  • (Nemours Foundation)

Patient Handouts

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