• Botulism-Fact Sheet

    What is botulism?

    Gram stain of clostridium botulinumBotulism is a muscle-paralyzing disease caused by a toxin made from a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum.

    How do I contract botulism?

    Botulism can be contracted by ingesting contaminated food or inhaling contaminated particles. In adults, food-borne botulism is most common. Botulism is not spread from person-to-person.

    What are the symptoms of botulism?

    Food-borne botulism causes gastrointestinal symptoms. Blurred vision, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing and muscle weakness can be found in patients with either type of botulism. In addition, an individual infected with botulism can experience progressive paralysis and respiratory failure.

    What is the treatment?

    The primary treatment for both types of botulism is supportive care in a hospital setting. Additionally, an antitoxin is available from the CDC. 

    General recommendations for home care:

    • Hand washing is an important step to protect yourself and others. Antimicrobial soaps such as Dial or Lever 2000 are good choices. If liquid soap is used, do not refill a partially emptied container. If water is not available, an alcohol product or waterless alcohol wash can be used.

    • Surfaces that are contaminated should be cleaned with one part bleach to nine parts water. Contaminated surfaces include those on bed rails, toilets, sinks and any other items contaminated with body secretions.

    • Travel is allowed only if medically necessary until the patient is well. There is no need for the patient to wear a mask when traveling.

    • Trash can be disposed of in the regular household trash.

    • Linens can be laundered as usual, using hot, soapy water.

    • Dishes and silverware can be washed in hot water or in the dishwasher.

    • Personal items such as toothbrushes, razors or drinking cups should never be shared.

      If you have questions or concerns, please contact your physician or local health department. 
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