Published: Wed, May 24, 2017
Medicine | By Megan Pierce

Man's death tied to California botulism outbreak

The San Francisco County coroner's office identified the dead man as Martin Galindo, 37. An online fundraising page said the man had been married and the father of two small children.

CNN affiliate KTXL reports that one woman, Lavinia Kelly, was reportedly hospitalized after putting the nacho cheese sauce on some Doritos chips on April 21.

A statement released by the CPDH on Monday confirmed the nacho cheese sauce sold at the gas station has tested positive for the toxin that causes botulism.

We were notified by the FDA that Gehl Foods' nacho cheese was among the products seized at the Walnut Grove gas station during inspection.

The California Department of Public Health confirmed the existence of the toxins in the nacho cheese sold at the gas station, which stopped selling it on May 5.

Botulism is the same foodborne disease that has been linked to the sickening of nine other people who consumed the gas station cheese, including a mother of three who was placed in intensive care.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, botulism is a rare but serious illness mainly caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, and sometimes by strains of Clostridium butyricum and Clostridium baratii.

There is no recall of the nacho cheese product, the company said. Survivors often are forced to spend weeks or months on ventilators to help them breathe.

Fewer than 100 cases of foodborne botulism are reported in the US every year - in some years, there are not even 20 annual cases, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

A major outbreak of food-borne botulism in 2015, when at least 29 people fell ill, was traced to a church potluck in Ohio.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture warns that botulism is often caused by home-cooked food, and extra care should be taken to ensure food safety: Food should be stored between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and canned food should be eaten within one year of canning, especially oils infused with garlic, chili sauces, and canned cheeses. Homemade foods that have been improperly canned, preserved, or fermented are common sources.

The toxin can spread in foods that are not processed or stored properly, and is odourless and colourless, making it hard to detect. Less common are contaminated store-bought foods. The same toxin was found in the patients, CDPH said.

Early symptoms include blurred vision, slurred speech, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing and muscle weakness. Patients also report a generally less happy and peaceful psychological state than before their illness.

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