A small botulism outbreak has left 1 dead and 9 hospitalized after consuming contaminated nacho cheese sauce from a gas station near Sacramento, California.
According to a statement released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), “While there are still unanswered questions about this outbreak, these tragic illnesses are important reminders to be vigilant about food safety.”
Botulism refers to a rare sickness caused by a bacteria known as Clostridium botulinum, which releases a nerve toxin accompanied by potentially lethal symptoms.
According to Lavinia Kelly, the sister of one of the hospitalized victims, she spent three weeks in intensive care.
“My phone rings and I pick up the phone and it’s her, and she can’t articulate a word,” said Lavinia who, at the time, was convinced her sister would die.
According to CDPH, symptoms of Botulism can include:
- “Double or blurred vision.
- Drooping eyelids.
- Slurred speech.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Dry mouth.
- Muscle weakness”
At the moment, the contamination found in California is not deemed to be a threat to the general public since the original source—the cheese sauce—was confiscated from the gas station on May 8.
On May 5, the gas station was barred from selling prepared foods, though the ban was lifted after the cheese sauce was seized.
In order to prevent any potential spread of the bacteria, CDPH has notified local health professionals about the incident, as well as the associated symptoms of the illness.
The CDC reports that botulism outbreaks are quite rare, including the incidence of fatalities from it.
Roughly 3%-5% of patients diagnosed with botulism actually die from it.
The director of the CDPH, Dr. Karen Smith, released a statement, including a caution about barbecuing during the upcoming summer season:
“As we head into the summer barbecue season, both indoor and outdoor chefs need to be on guard against all foodborne illnesses”