botulism

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Often-fatal food poisoning caused by presence of a toxin (called botlinus toxin or botulin) produced by the bacteria clostridium botulinum. This microorganism develops in improperly sterilized canned food, specially the low-acid foods (see Botulinum Cook). Unlike in other types of food poisoning (where symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhea, and/or vomiting may appear within minutes or few hours), botulism symptoms develop without gastric distress and may appear six hours to two weeks (commonly between 12 to 36 hours) after eating the contaminated food. This toxin remains in the contaminated food even if the bacteria is killed, and selectively attacks the central nervous system.
Symptoms of botulism include difficulty in focusing the eyes, double vision, difficulty in swallowing, drooping eyelids, dry mouth, muscle weakness, and/or slurred speech. It also causes persistent fatigue or lassitude due to muscle weakness that always first affects shoulders and upper arms and progressively affect lower parts of the body. In the last phase, the breathing muscles are paralyzed causing stoppage of breath (and death) if mechanical ventilation is not applied. Its cure requires early detection and administration of an antitoxin, and weeks or months of supportive care.


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