The Roanoke Times reported that Virginia health officials are investigating two cases of botulism. So far, the Virginia Department of Health investigation into the cases has shown that home-canned food was the source of the botulism. As reported by the Times:
The cases, which surfaced last week, occurred in one household and are related to home-canned food not in wide or commercial circulation, said Robert Parker, the department’s regional spokesman. He declined to say if either case was fatal.
Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Clostridium botulinum is the name of a group of bacteria commonly found in soil. The bacteria are anaerobic, gram-positive, spore-forming rods that produce a potent neurotoxin. These rod-shaped organisms grow best in low oxygen conditions. The bacteria form spores that allow them to survive in a dormant state until exposed to conditions that can support their growth. The organism and its spores are widely distributed in nature. They occur in both cultivated and forest soils, bottom sediment of streams, lakes, and coastal waters, in the intestinal tracts of fish and mammals, and in the gills and viscera of crabs and other shellfish.
Foodborne botulism is a severe type of food poisoning caused by the ingestion of foods containing the potent neurotoxin formed during growth of the organism. The incidence of the disease is low, but the disease is of considerable concern because of its high mortality rate if not treated immediately and properly. Most of the 10 to 30 outbreaks that are reported annually in the United States are associated with inadequately processed, home-canned foods, but occasionally commercially produced foods are implicated as the source of outbreaks. Sausages, meat products, canned vegetables, and seafood products have been the most frequent vehicles for foodborne botulism.