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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Botulism Update: 9 sick, 1 dead, cheese possible culprit

1495126002446The outbreak of foodborne botulism originating from the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in Walnut Grove has left 10 people hospitalized, the state Department of Health reported Friday, and an Antioch resident, Martin Galindo, may have died as a result.

The botulism outbreak was reported to have come from nacho cheese sauce sold at the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in Walnut Grove.

37-year-old Martin Galindo from Antioch also died in a hospital in San Francisco on Thursday night after contracting what his family said is a rare case of botulism. ABC7 News reported on Friday that Martin Galindo contracted botulism from nacho cheese bought at the gas station and was being treated in San Francisco.

Inspection reports for the Valley Oaks Food and Fuel station show that on May 6 and 7, officers impounded bags of Montecito nacho cheese tortilla chips and closed the facility. On May 8, health officers from the state Department of Health impounded four bags of Gehls cheese sauce and reopened the store to sell prepackaged food items only.

Botulism is a rare but potentially life-threatening bacterial illness. Clostridium botulinum bacteria grows on food and produces toxins that, when ingested, cause paralysis. Botulism poisoning is extremely rare, but so dangerous that each case is considered a public health emergency. Studies have shown that there is a 35 to 65 percent chance of death for patients who are not treated immediately and effectively with botulism antitoxin.

Infant botulism is the most common form of botulism. See below for symptoms specific to infant botulism.

Botulism neurotoxins prevent neurotransmitters from functioning properly. This means that they inhibit motor control. As botulism progresses, the patient experiences paralysis from top to bottom, starting with the eyes and face and moving to the throat, chest, and extremities. When paralysis reaches the chest, death from inability to breathe results unless the patient is ventilated. Symptoms of botulism generally appear 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food.  With treatment, illness lasts from 1 to 10 days.  Full recovery from botulism poisoning can take weeks to months.  Some people never fully recover.

In general, symptoms of botulism poisoning include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Dry skin, mouth and throat
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Slurred speech
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Body Aches
  • Paralysis
  • Lack of fever

If found early, botulism can be treated with an antitoxin that blocks circulation of the toxin in the bloodstream. This prevents the patient’s case from worsening, but recovery still takes several weeks.