Chili botulismNews Radio 1420 out of Lubbock, Texas, reported last week that Marissa Cisneros, a young victim of the botulism outbreak traced to Castleberry’s chili products, may be returning to school soon. 

Last July, Castleberry’s recalled canned meat products that were distributed nationwide, with the exception of Great Value chili products which were exported only to Canada, after two children in Texas and Indiana residents were confirmed ill with botulism after eating the company’s canned chili products.  A public health investigation led to a recall of three types of meatless hotdog chili sauce, which was expanded to include all meatless products produced at the Castleberry Georgia plant that might still be in commerce.  The recall was further expanded to include products containing meat.  The USDA press release with pertinent information is found here.

As reported by Newsradio 1420’s James Clark:

Cisneros and her older brother were the first cases of poisoning that led to a nationwide recall of Castleberry Chili and subsequently other Castleberry products. They ate contaminated Chili on June 28th. Her brother was hospitalized for about a month. But the young Ms. Cisneros was hospitalized clear up until mid September, which included time in Covenant and then later rehab in Dallas.

The botulism poisoned her diaphragm so she could not breathe. She was on a ventilator machine for well more than a month. She had to learn how to walk all over again. Needless to say the botulism could have killed her.

Classic symptoms of botulism include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. Infants with botulism appear lethargic, feed poorly, are constipated, and have a weak cry and poor muscle tone. These are all symptoms of the muscle paralysis caused by the bacterial toxin. If untreated, these symptoms may progress to cause paralysis of the arms, legs, trunk, and respiratory muscles. In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after consuming contaminated food, but they can occur as early as 6 hours or as late as 10 days after consumption.

Botulinum toxin causes flaccid paralysis by blocking motor nerve terminals at the myoneural junction. The flaccid paralysis progresses symmetrically downward, usually starting with the eyes and face, then moving to the throat, chest, and extremities. When the diaphragm and chest muscles become fully involved, respiration is inhibited and unless the patient receives treatment in time, death from asphyxia results.

If diagnosed early, foodborne botulism can be treated with an antitoxin that blocks the action of toxin circulating in the blood. This can prevent patients from worsening, but recovery still takes many weeks. Physicians may try to remove contaminated food still in the gut by inducing vomiting or using enemas.

While botulism has been known to cause death due to respiratory failure, in the past 50 years the proportion of patients with botulism who die has fallen from about 50% to 8%. The respiratory failure and paralysis that occur with severe botulism may require a patient to be on a ventilator for weeks, plus intensive medical and nursing care. After several weeks, the paralysis slowly improves.