At Least Three Cases of Infant Botulism Confirmed in East Texas

Samuel Allegri
By Samuel Allegri
July 18, 2019USshare
At Least Three Cases of Infant Botulism Confirmed in East Texas
Stock photo of a baby's feet. (Vitamin/Pixabay)

At least three cases of infant botulism have been confirmed in East Texas, a potential fourth case is being investigated.

“We are certainly curious about where this originated from,” said Russell Hopkins, with Northeast Texas Public Health District.

According to the Infant Botulism Treatment and Prevention Program, “Infant botulism is an orphan (“rare”) disease that affects infants primarily under 1 year of age. First recognized in 1976, infant botulism occurs globally and is the most common form of human botulism in the United States.”

It happens when a bacteria consumed by the baby produces a toxin inside the body, which can cause breathing problems and muscle weakness, the organization states.

The disease “produces constipation, weakness (notably of gag, cry, suck and swallow), loss of muscle tone, and ultimately, flaccid (“limp”) paralysis. Affected infants have difficulty feeding and often, breathing,” according to the prevention program. “However, in the absence of complications, patients recover completely from the disease.”

According to Hopkins, there were two babies diagnosed with the disease in Troup, another in Mineola, and they are prepared for the confirmation of a fourth case in Tyler, reported WBTV.

“We’re not really sure what the commonality is, because they are kind of spread out,” Hopkins said. “You do have two cases in one town, which is unusual. But it doesn’t mean they’re related.”

Dr. Richard Wallace, infectious disease expert at the UT Health Science Center at Tyler, said the disease is “so rare,” it’s difficult to diagnose, which puts the child at further risk.

“It produces paralysis, so the child is weak, they would have difficulty raising their arms, raising their legs moving about, and trouble breathing in a very shallow breath. Just anything that required muscular effort,” Wallace told KTBS. “So usually, concerns about the respiratory disease are the main things that bring them to medical attention. It’s not an easy diagnosis to make, because it’s so rare. Even quality physicians sometimes put other things before it.”

Wallace said that the disease can be fatal if the child is having difficulty breathing and the infection is diagnosed too late.

“Its potentially fatal, the muscles that by which you breathe, become so paralyzed. And if you don’t have supportive breathing, then you simply die of not enough oxygen,” Wallace said. “Now, if the child is really sick, they usually often go on a respirator, and they may be on the respirator for even several weeks until the toxin wears off. And they get the normal strength back.”

Sheila Santiago from Troup told KTBS—she noticed something was wrong when her grandson Anthony, who was less than a month old at the time, suddenly stopped eating.

Santiago took the infant to a Jacksonville ER where they stayed overnight, but after a variety of different tests came back negative, she decided to take him to a hospital in Dallas.

Anthony grew increasingly lethargic and was transferred to the ICU. He had to be put on an oxygen tank and required a feeding tube, and eventually, he became paralyzed. After finally being tested for infant botulism, the baby was diagnosed with the disease, the ABC affiliate reported.

Baby Anthony is still using a feeding tube but is gaining his strength. The grandmother said she is sharing her story to warn parents with babies to look out for the symptoms of the disease before it’s too late.

“I was honestly thinking he might be getting sick. The thing that kind of threw me off was most kids kind of gradually start to you know, start fading a little bit or whatever. What he did was he just completely stopped,” Santiago told KTBS. “I knew there was something going on, but it didn’t know what was going on. It just seemed like he was okay one minute and then the next minute, he couldn’t wake him. And it kept going back and forth.”

The medicine used to treat infant botulism, BabyBIG is only available in California.

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