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Botulism is a severe paralytic illness caused by the neurotoxin
produced by spores of the bacterium, Clostridium botulinum. There
are four naturally occurring forms of botulism (foodborne, wound,
infant/intestinal and adult intestinal toxemia) and two other forms
(inhalation and iatrogenic). Non-infant botulism can occur following the
ingestion of botulinum neurotoxin, infection of a wound or injection
site with Clostridium botulinum, or an undetermined gastrointestinal
exposure to the bacterium in adults. Infant botulism (also known as
Intestinal Botulism) occurs in infants less than 12 months of age
following the consumption and subsequent intestinal growth of C.
botulinum spores that release the neurotoxin.
Foodborne botulism is caused by eating foods that contain the
botulinum neurotoxin. This toxin may not give a bad odor or taste to
food. The disease most often develops after consuming improperly
processed home-preserved foods that are inadequately cooked before
consumption. However, commercial foods and restaurants are still sources
of sporadic botulism cases.
All forms of botulism involve the botulinum neurotoxin interfering
with the nerves' ability to control muscles. Usually symptoms begin with
facial muscles and may include blurred or double vision, changes in
voice or cry, and difficulty swallowing. Muscle paralysis descends the
body causing weakness, loss of head control in babies, and possibly
respiratory failure. Urgent medical attention is necessary for anyone
suspected of having botulism.
Foodborne fact sheet (PDF, 15 KB) Hmong (PDF,
14 KB) Spanish (PDF,
Infant (intestinal) fact sheet (PDF, 20 KB) Hmong
(PDF, 16 KB) Spanish
Information for health professionals
All forms of botulism are reportable in Wisconsin
The Communicable Disease Epidemiology Section of the
Wisconsin Division of Public Health can coordinate the consultation with
CDC or IBTPP necessary to acquire antitoxin for prompt treatment of
suspected botulism cases.
Local health department staff or health care providers can call
608-267-9003 during regular office hours or the DPH emergency answering
service at 608-258-0099 on nights and weekends in order to consult with
Local Health Departments - Regional offices - Tribal agencies
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November 01, 2013