Botulism is an infectious disease resulting from eating foods contaminated with toxins from the spore-forming bacillus Clostridium botulinum. Toxins affect the nervous system, leading to paralysis and death.
The causative agents of botulism live in an oxygen-free environment, so the most common source of poisoning with their toxins is home canning products, hermetically sealed under a lid.
Clostridium botulism is ubiquitous in the soil. Mushrooms, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots and other foods are often contaminated with clostridia. If the products are prepared in violation of the rules of culinary processing, then being tightly closed under a lid, in a warm room, during long-term storage they become a source of a deadly disease.
In addition to home-made preparations, meat products are the cause of poisoning: sausages, smoked hams, and so on.
During reproduction, bacteria form clusters – rosettes, and toxins accumulate pointwise, unevenly poisoning products. That’s why of the few who have eaten spoiled food, not all get sick.
How does the disease manifest itself?
Dangerous in terms of the development of poisoning are not the clostridia themselves, but their toxins. The longer the product has been stored, the higher the concentration of toxins in it and the higher the likelihood of infection.
Once in the human intestine, toxins penetrate the bloodstream, spread throughout the body, affecting the brain and spinal cord. Depending on the severity of the infection, the incubation period lasts from several hours to a week.
The first dangerous signs are headaches, dry mouth, visual disturbances: double vision, fog before the eyes, dilated pupils, their different sizes (anisocaria). Strabismus may develop.
Deterioration of the condition may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, constipation. The temperature may remain normal.
In the future, the symptoms increase: hoarseness of voice, aphonia, swallowing disorders appear, movements are difficult, and muscle paralysis gradually occurs.
The pulse slows down, blood pressure decreases. Without treatment, a person dies from respiratory and cardiac arrest.
Read more: How to protect yourself from poisoning?
Product quality: how to determine?
The danger of botulism lies in the fact that the appearance of canned food and other food remains unchanged. Swelling of the lid on the blanks is a sign of their deterioration, but not clostridium botulism.
Infected products do not change their odor, color or texture.
To prevent botulism, it is recommended to thoroughly clean and rinse products before canning from earth and sand.
Products that are difficult to peel (for example, mushrooms) should be harvested for the winter in an “open way”, without sealing tightly under the lid so as not to create an oxygen-free environment.
If the products are prepared for the future “under the lid”, then it is necessary to strictly follow the rules of culinary preparation, adding the right amount of acetic acid to cold dishes or citric acid to sweet ones.
All homemade preparations must be stored in a cold place, this slows down the life of bacteria and reduces the production of toxins. Strictly observe the shelf life, do not use blanks 2-3 years old or more.
After opening the jars, it is recommended to boil their contents. When boiled, botulinum toxins are destroyed within 15-20 minutes.
You should not purchase homemade preparations, smoked meats and sausages from your hands.
In the event of the development of dangerous symptoms, it is necessary to wash the stomach as soon as possible, take sorbents: activated charcoal, Enterosgel, Smecta and call an ambulance.
Antitoxic serum is used to treat botulism. The prognosis after its introduction is favorable. Without the introduction of serum, mortality from botulism reaches 30-60%.