There are about 110 cases of botulism in the United States each year. This may not seem like a large percentage of the population, but it’s prevalent enough that the CDC still considers it an emergent issue.

Botulism is a condition that comes from bloodborne pathogens. And, it can be deadly.

You could contract botulism from anywhere, including from the food that you eat. In fact, 25% of botulism cases come from foodborne botulism. And, this condition affects women and men equally.

That’s why you need to be aware of what botulism is and how to catch it. To learn more about the clinical case of botulism, keep reading.

What Is Botulism?

Botulism is a serious condition. It happens when toxins from the bacteria Clostridium botulinum enter the body. This makes it a bloodborne pathogen.

There are three main kinds of botulism:

  1. Foodborne botulism
  2. Wound botulism
  3. Infant botulism

As we touched on earlier, foodborne botulism makes up 25% of botulism cases. Clostridium botulinum thrives in environments that have little oxygen. Unfortunately, this makes in-home canned food a prime target for it.

As the bacteria live in this environment, they produce toxins. This turns the food into poison without us even realizing it.

Wood botulism occurs when Clostridium botulinum gets into a cut. As they’re living and growing, they’re producing toxins and creating an infection in the body.

Infant botulism is the most common type of botulism. Unfortunately, Clostridium botulinum bacteria can get into an infant’s intestinal tract. When this happens, bacterial spores begin to grow.

Infant botulism typically happens in infants who are between two and eight months old.

Although each type happens differently, it’s important to note that botulism in any form can be fatal. All cases are medical emergencies that require immediate attention from medical professionals.

Symptoms of Botulism

The symptoms of botulism vary depending on the kind of botulism that a patient has.

Patients with foodborne botulism may show these symptoms:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Facial weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Paralysis

These symptoms may start showing 12 to 36 hours after exposure to Clostridium botulinum. The more of the toxin you consume, the faster the symptoms will appear.

These are the symptoms of wound botulism:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Facial weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Trouble breathing
  • Paralysis

These symptoms are similar to those found in patients with foodborne botulism. But this is because the same toxin is causing symptoms in both cases.

Since wound botulism originates on a specific part of the body, patients may or may not notice redness and swelling near the entrance site.

Symptoms of wound botulism may appear about ten days after you’re exposed to the toxin. 

These are the symptoms of infant botulism:

  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weak cry
  • Irritability
  • Drooling
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Paralysis

If an infant’s infection is related to food intake, it’s likely that symptoms will begin within 18 to 36 hours of exposure. 

It’s important to note that a botulism infection doesn’t generally affect blood pressure, heart rate, mental status, or body temperature. However, some cases of wound botulism may cause patients to develop fevers.

Complications of Botulism

The Clostridium botulinum bacterium affects muscle control in the body. This is why paralysis is a common symptom of botulism. 

Besides paralysis and the other symptoms that come with the condition, botulism can cause other complications. The most immediate danger is the possibility of not being able to breathe. In fact, this is the most common cause of death due to botulism.

Other complications may include difficulty speaking, trouble swallowing, muscle weakness, and shortness of breath. 

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should speak with a physician as soon as possible. It’s important to seek care as quickly as possible since the toxins spread quickly.

Causes of Botulism

Each kind of botulism occurs from the same bacteria: Clostridium botulinum. But the cause for each infection is different.

Foodborne botulism usually comes from home-canned foods that have little acid in them. This includes vegetables, fruits, fish, and the like. Physicians have also linked botulism to spicy peppers, baked potatoes, and oil.

If you happen to ingest food that has Clostridium botulinum in it, toxins will begin forming in your body. These toxins will disrupt nerve function throughout your body. In serious cases, this could cause paralysis and even death.

Wound botulism occurs when Clostridium botulinum bacteria make it into a wound. Most often, the infection occurs where an unknown injury occurred. You may not even know that you’ve cut yourself, so bacteria may come into the wound.

Once one of these bacteria makes it into the wound, it can start multiplying. At the same time, the bacteria will produce toxins. 

Most patients who develop wound botulism do so as a result of using street drugs. More recently, patients who inject heroin have been known to develop wound botulism. This is because this substance can contain spores of Clostridium botulinum. 

Black tar heroin is the most dangerous substance when it comes to this condition. So, people who use black tar heroin are at an increased risk of contracting botulism.

Infant botulism occurs when a baby consumes spores of the bacteria that cause botulism. After the baby ingests one or more of these bacteria, they will begin multiplying in the intestinal tract. There, they will begin releasing toxins.

Some experts believe that honey is the culprit to blame for botulism in infants. But there are conflicting reports that say that infant botulism may occur in infants who are exposed to contaminated soil.

Positive Uses of Clostridium Botulinum

Whether you’d like to believe it or not, physicians can use the bacteria that causes botulism in positive ways. It’s hard to believe after reading all of this negative information, but it’s true. In fact, you’ve likely heard of it.

Clostridium botulinum is present in Botox.

Scientists have found that the paralyzing effects that these toxins have can be useful. In particular, physicians use the paralyzing effects to reduce facial wrinkles, prevent muscle spasms, and calm severe headaches.

Ideally, the bacteria stay contained to the ara that the physician is focusing on. Although, in some instances, using this bacteria can cause problems. 

The most common problem occurs when muscle paralysis extends past the area that the physician is treating. This can be dangerous, especially if the bacteria doesn’t slow its growth.

So, if you’re interested in these kinds of procedures, you should speak with a licensed physician. He/She can help you find the best course of treatment, whether that be using Botox or something else.

Treating Botulism

If a patient has foodborne botulism, their physician is going to focus on getting the bacteria out of their system. This may involve administering medications that cause the patient to vomit or pass stool.

If a patient has wound botulism, their physician may need to remove the infected tissue surgically. This may be the first step in their infection control plan.

Otherwise, a physician may provide a patient with antitoxins or antibiotics.

Protecting Yourself From Botulism

Botulism is a bloodborne pathogen just like hepatitis and HIV. It’s a serious condition that we should work to avoid.

With proper bloodborne pathogens training, you’ll know how to avoid becoming a botulism case study. The condition may be rare, but recent cases of botulism prove that it is still very much a possibility for anyone.

First, you need to make sure that you’re storing your food properly. If you’re canning or storing foods at home, you want to make sure that these foods aren’t breeding grounds for bacteria like Clostridium botulinum. 

To be sure that your food is well-kept, you should pressure cook these foods at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 20 to 100 minutes. The amount of time will depend on the kind of food that you’re canning.

Before you serve these foods, you should make sure that you boil them for about ten minutes to ensure that any bacteria is killed in the heat.

You should never eat preserved food that comes from a bulging or malodorous container.

If you’re eating potatoes that are wrapped in foil, you should eat them hot. If you have leftovers, you need to loosen the foil and store them in the refrigerator. 

If you have any oils that have garlic or herbs in them, you should store them in the refrigerator.

To reduce the risk of infant botulism, you should avoid giving honey to any child under the age of one year old. Honey is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to botulism in infants.

Lastly, to prevent wound botulism, you should avoid injecting or inhaling street drugs. These kinds of activities can increase your risk for the condition. You should also keep all cuts and wounds clean and dry.

Bloodborne Pathogens Training

Botulism is one of many bloodborne pathogens that are dangerous. This life-threatening bacterial infection is still something to look out for.

In order to kill botulism, we have to have proper bloodborne pathogens training. And, that’s where we come in.

Be sure to check out our posts for the latest news on bloodborne pathogens to ensure that you’re protecting yourself.