Infant botulism case reported in North Dakota
BISMARCK, ND – The North Dakota Department of Health received a report of an infant diagnosed with botulism. The infant is recovering at home after hospitalization and botulism antitoxin treatment.
Infant botulism is a disease that affects children younger than 1 year. Constipation is usually the first sign of illness, and other signs and symptoms may include poor feeding, decreased movement, diminished facial expression, weak and altered cry, loss of head control, and progressive weakness.
Symptoms develop three to 30 days after ingesting Clostridium botulinum bacteria spores, which can be found throughout the world in soils and dust. The spores grow in the infant’s intestine and produce botulinum toxin. The disease is a result of muscle paralysis caused by the toxin. Without medical care and treatment, botulism can cause respiratory failure and death.
“Although most infants with botulism likely ingested dust or dirt particles that contained spores, honey can contain botulism spores and is not safe to feed children younger than 12 months,” said Laura Cronquist, an epidemiologist with the NDDoH. “The infant had a history of honey consumption prior to illness, but it is unknown whether the honey or exposure to botulism spores in the environment caused illness.”
Since honey can contain the bacteria that causes infant botulism, the best prevention is to avoid feeding honey to children under age 1. It’s unknown why some infants get botulism and others do not. Infant botulism is an emergency. Consult a health care provider immediately if your child has symptoms of botulism.
Although rare, infant botulism is the most common form of human botulism in the United States. Other types of botulism include foodborne botulism, wound botulism, adult intestinal toxemia, and iatrogenic botulism.
In 2017, 182 laboratory-confirmed cases of botulism were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 141 infant botulism cases.
The last report of infant botulism in North Dakota was in 2018.