Causes Of Botulism is due to a toxin being produced and released into the body by the bacterium by the name of Clostridium botulinum, and can lead to many serious effects such as paralysis, loss of feeling or control over certain muscles groups, leading to difficulty in breathing and even fatalities.
If the toxin reaches a certain stage in the body, it can cause permanent and almost irreparable damage to the patient, including permanent paralysis of the arms, legs and respiratory muscles, possibly leading to severe difficulty in breathing or death.
Food that is damaged, or stored improperly leading to easy infection, may contain the toxin and be ingested into the body. Otherwise, the bacteria can enter the body through open wounds. Fortunately, the infection is not one that is contagious, and thus cannot be passed on from person to person.
When will I see the effects of botulism begin to take place?
The symptoms begin to show in adults after roughly 10 to 35 hours after ingesting contaminated food substances. In infants, the amount of time varies, and can range anywhere from a few days all the way up to a month.
However, comparing this with infection from open wounds, we see a different story. If you were infected through an open wound, the symptoms will begin to show somewhere between a few days and two weeks.
What are the symptoms?
The traditional symptoms associated with botulism are as such:
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty in swallowing, speech and movement
- Impaired vision, such as seeing double or blurry images
- Lack of strength in the body
How is this diagnosed?
The bacteria and toxins that affect the body and cause botulism, can be found in bodily fluids such as lymph (a fluid contained in blood) and also faeces. Another way of diagnosing botulism is electromyography, essentially an electrical way of measuring the activity of muscles. This may be accompanied by brain scans and examination of spinal fluid to reach a conclusion.
If it isn’t botulism, what else could it potentially be?
Some other diseases can easily be mistaken from botulism. Here are just a few of them:
- Polineural diphtheria
- Poisoning through other means, such as mushrooms, metal based toxins, etc
- Neurological diseases, such as hemorrhagic brain injury
How is botulism treated? Causes Of Botulism
Treating botulism in the early stages of infection is vital in reducing the impact that botulism has on the body. Both forms of infection can be treated with an antitoxin which blocks any further effects that botulism may have on the body; however, it does not undo any previous bodily damage already caused by botulism. Also, antitoxins are rarely effective in treating infants for botulism, as the infection is contained within the digestive tract.
If the patient is unable to swallow properly, the doctor may administer an injection to aid in the ability to swallow properly. On top of this, if a patient has breathing problems, then a mechanical device may be implemented to aid in the patient’s breathing.
Antibiotics will be used rarely, and only to treat further complications caused by being infected by botulism, as over-consumption may lead to lack of effectiveness, and thus higher infection rates of botulism.
Things to note:
Patients may suffer an allergic reaction to the antitoxin due to its contents, as the mainly used serum is derived from horses. There is a human derived alternative however.
The body often heals within a few months after treatment. However, in serious cases of botulism, it may take a long time (up to one or two years) to see full recovery.
If not treated, botulism can lead to permanent paralysis, lack of breathing ability (meaning either fatality or permanent breathing aid). On top of this, it may lead to further complications such as pneumonia, among other infections.
How can I prevent botulism? Causes Of Botulism
Store your food well, and in dry cool conditions, away from hot and wet environments to reduce potential contamination. Ensure when preparing food, you do it with utmost attention and safety, and avoid any potential contamination.
Furthermore, cooking the food sufficiently and at a high enough temperature (anything above 116 degrees Celsius should be sufficient) will be enough to destroy any harmful bacteria.
Avoid giving children under the age of a year any food substances containing honey or corn syrup as these are foods that are most likely to be contaminated. Finally, ensure all wounds are washed and wrapped thoroughly to prevent infection spreading into the wound.