Coincidentally on the same day that I delivered a lecture on various bioterrorism topics, four cases of botulism were reported in Amarillo, Texas. During my lecture, I reminded the audience that botulism was once known as "sausage fever", provoking snickering in the crowd.
Remembering that botulus is the Latin word for sausage helps reinforce the fact that many botulism cases in the US are food-borne, often linked to home-canned substances (as these cases will likely turn out to be). Learning several important pieces of information regarding the 4 cases, who are all known to each other and 3 of whom have household contact, will be essential. Answers to the following questions will be crucial in the investigation:
- Has confirmatory testing been done?
- Is the same toxin type responsible in all cases?
- Why did only 2 of the 4 meet criteria for antitoxin administration?
Another recently reported development with botulism was the discovery of a new of an 8th toxin type, for which no anti-toxin is currently available.