Botulism – Ukraine

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On 7 Feb 2021, 5 people with signs of foodborne illness were admitted to the infectious diseases department of the Bulungur District Medical Association in Samarkand region in southeastern Uzbekistan. They were later diagnosed with botulism at the hospital.

Despite the efforts of the doctors, one of the admitted, a 20-year-old man, died. Four more are in intensive care.

According to preliminary data, all 5 the day before, during lunch at the house of one of the victims, ate canned tomatoes prepared at home.

Photo: Clostridium botulinum.

Foodborne botulism is a severe intoxication caused by eating the preformed toxin present in contaminated food. It occurs when spores of bacterium Clostridium botulinum germinate and the organism is allowed to grow and produce toxin in food that is later eaten without sufficient heating or cooking to inactivate the spores. Botulinum toxin is one of the most potent neurotoxins known.

Typically in a few hours to several days after ingestion of the contaminated food, one will start to show the classic symptoms: blurred vision, dry mouth, and difficulty in swallowing. Gastrointestinal symptoms may or may not occur. If untreated, the paralysis can descend through the body starting at the face and working its way down.

Prevention is primarily by proper food preparation. The toxin, though not the organism, is destroyed by heating it to more than 85 C (185 F) for longer than 5 minutes. Honey can contain the organism, and for this reason, honey should not be fed to children under 12 months.

Globally, botulism is fairly rare, with approximately 1,000 cases yearly.

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