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Denmark investigates botulism outbreak

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Three confirmed cases of foodborne botulism are being investigated in Denmark.

The outbreak occurred earlier this month at a private company in Southern Denmark. Six people had eaten together and three initially developed symptoms. Two other people have since shown signs of being affected.

Fødevarestyrelsen (the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration), the National Food Institute (DTU- Food) and Statens Serum Institut are trying to identify the source of infection.

Following a private party on March 5, three adults have been hospitalized because of botulism. They are being treated with botulism antitoxin and the condition of all of them is improving. Analysis of stool from one patient shows it is toxin type B.

Another two people from the company have developed mild symptoms and samples from them are being studied.

The Statens Serum Institut examined samples from the patients to confirm the botulism hypothesis. The agency is also analyzing the ingredients and leftovers of food that was eaten at the company. No other patients with botulism are known outside this business.

Botulism is a rare condition caused by toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria.

In 2018, a botulism outbreak involving nine people at a company in Sønderborg was caused by a homemade, savory jelly dish. Four became seriously ill requiring intensive care and mechanical ventilation and were hospitalized for up to eight weeks. A sample from the food was positive with botulinum toxin type A. The same type was identified in the patients.

About botulism
While a variety of illnesses can result from eating under-processed food, one of the most dangerous is botulism poisoning. Untreated, botulism can paralyze the muscles needed for breathing, resulting in sudden death.

Anyone who has developed signs of botulism poisoning should immediately seek medical attention, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. However, symptoms can begin as soon as 6 hours after or up to 10 days later,” according to the CDC website.

The symptoms of botulism may include some or all of the following: double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing or breathing, a thick-feeling tongue, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. People with botulism poisoning may not show all of these symptoms at once.

These symptoms result from muscle paralysis caused by the toxin. If untreated, the disease may progress, and symptoms may worsen to cause paralysis of specific muscles, including those used in breathing and those in the arms, legs, and the body from the neck to the pelvis area.

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