February 2016

The Washington State Public Health Laboratory confirmed botulism was the cause of two deaths in Grant County earlier in February. The deaths were announced on Feb. 19th by the Grant County Health District (GCHD) and said they were likely caused by botulism but awaited further testing. GCHD officials said both of the cases were from the same household and had “classic” botulism symptoms.

The food source still has not been found but GCHD officials said they are working closely with the family to “properly destroy any unopened home-canned food found in the residence.” “The thorough work by medical providers and staff at GCHD in coordination with Washington State Department of Health has lead to the confirmation of botulism (botulinum) toxin in the patient’s blood samples. This in turn confirmed the clinical suspicion and the results of our environmental investigation,” GCHD Environmental Health Manager Todd Phillips said in a press release. “This tragic event is a reminder to all of us about proper food preparation and canning.”

Botulism is a serious, muscle-paralyzing disease caused by a toxin made by a bacteria found naturally in soil.

Heath officials are investigating the death of two people that was likely caused by botulism. Leaders at the Grant County Health District (GCHD) said it is still early in the investigation but the suspected source is home-canned food, though it has not been confirmed yet.

The Washington State Department of Health reported an average of 0 to two cases of food-related botulism deaths each year over the last 10 years.

The identities of the two were not released by Grant County officials.

Botulism is a serious, muscle-paralyzing disease caused by a toxin made by a bacteria found naturally in soil. There are three main types of botulism: foodborne, infant, and wound.

Historically, home-canned vegetables, fruits and meat products have been the most common cause of foodborne botulism outbreaks in the United States.

Here is a list of the top ways to make sure you stay safe in your own kitchen.

Use proper canning techniques: make sure your recipes are always current with scientifically tested guidelines. Don’t use outdated publications or cookbooks, even if they were handed down to you from trusted family cooks.

Use the right equipment for the kind of foods that you are canning: always use a pressure canner when canning low-acid vegetables, meat, fish and poultry.

When it doubt, throw it out: if the container is leaking, bulging, swollen or if the jar spurts liquid or foam when you open it, toss it.

Botulism is considered a medical emergency. If symptoms of foodborne illness arise, go to a doctor right away.

The GCHD noted the disease is not spread from person to person but symptoms appear anywhere between six hours to ten days. Here is the list of symptoms provided by the GCHD:

Double vision
Blurred vision
Drooping eyelids
Slurred speech
Difficulty swallowing
Dry mouth
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Muscle weakness

Experts say to never taste home-canned food to determine if it is safe.