Fresno County investigating suspected botulism outbreak

Health officials warn everyone to follow all health guidelines when canning foods in order to prevent botulism from occurring.

Fresno County health officials are warning the public to be aware of a suspected outbreak of botulism. 

Botulism is a rare illness that is caused by a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum and related bacteria. The disease can attack nerves and lead to muscle paralysis, particularly of facial nerves, as well as severe difficulty of breathing and death. 


The big picture: The Fresno County Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that it is investigating a suspected multi-person outbreak of botulism. 

  • The outbreak is likely related to contaminated food consumed at a family event on June 21 in Caruthers and June 22 in Clovis. 
  • The department of public health is working with the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify the specific food source for the outbreak. 

Go deeper: According to the department, people can get botulism by ingesting the toxin through improperly home-canned, preserved or fermented foods. 

  • The illness can also spread through wounds infected with the bacteria. 
  • All home-canning and preserving methods need to follow the proper guidelines, and any items that are to be preserved need to be thoroughly cleaned of any soil before canning to avoid Botulism. 
  • Botulism cannot be spread from person to person. 

Symptoms: Botulism symptoms usually begin with weakness and dizziness and are followed by blurred vision, drooping eyelids and difficulty speaking or swallowing. 

  • Botulism can cause paralysis that starts in the upper body and moves down to the legs. 

What they’re saying: “Our local health department is working closely with area hospitals, state, and national health agencies on this outbreak. While the risk to the general population is low, we are actively tracing those who may have consumed the contaminated food to ensure they get timely monitoring and treatment,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, Interim Health Officer for Fresno County. “This is also a good reminder for everyone to maintain safe food handling practices as we prepare for upcoming Independence Day festivities.”

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