Abdominal cramps Breathing - difficulty Constipation
Diarrhea Eyes - drooping eyelids Fatigue / exhaustion
Mouth - dry Muscles - weakness Nausea
Speech - changes Speech - difficulty Swallowing - difficulty
Vision - blurred Vision - double Vomiting
Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. The symptoms are not caused by the organism itself, but by the toxin that the bacterium releases. The disease is an intoxication caused by extremely potent toxins preformed in foods.

There are seven recognized types of botulism. Four of these (types A, B, E and rarely F) cause human botulism. Types C, D and E cause illness in mammals, birds and fish. The sporulated form of the bacterium is commonly found in soils, aquatic sediments and fish. The spores are heat-resistant.

Clostridium botulinum is an "anaerobic bacterium", which means it can only grow in the absence of oxygen. Therefore, the growth of the bacteria and the formation of toxin tend to occur in products with low oxygen content and the right combination of storage temperature and preservative parameters.

There are three kinds of botulism characterized differently on the basis of their means of exposure:

- Foodborne botulism. It comes from eating foods contaminated with the toxin.

- Wound botulism. Caused by a botulism toxin that is produced from a wound that was contaminated with Clostridium botulinum.

- Infant botulism. It is caused by consuming the spores of the bacteria, which then release toxins in the intestines.

All forms lead to paralysis that typically starts with the muscles of the face and then spreads towards the limbs. In severe forms, it leads to paralysis of the breathing muscles and causes respiratory failure. In view of this life-threatening complication, all suspected cases of botulism are treated as medical emergencies.

The symptoms of food borne botulism usually occur 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. However, symptoms may occur as early as six hours or as late as 10 days following exposure. There is no fever with this infection.

Infants with botulism may seem lethargic, feed poorly, experience constipation, and have a weak cry and appear floppy.

If left untreated, symptoms may progress to paralysis of the arms, legs, trunk, and breathing muscles. The symptoms of botulism may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Recovery from botulism may take many weeks. Fatigue and shortness of breath may persist for years.
The most direct way to confirm the diagnosis is to identify the botulinum neurotoxin in the patient's blood, serum, or stool. Botulism can be diagnosed by some of the following procedures and tests:

- Physical examination, including patient's history

- Blood tests (to identify the toxin)

- Stool culture (can help to differentiate botulism from other infectious agents)

- Lab tests (can be ordered on the suspected foods)

- Special tests (like brain scan or electromyography in order to exclude other conditions)
   More information:
Botulism Treatment
Botulism Healthcare Centers

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