Suspected cases of botulism in Fresno County

Department of Public Health says cases likely stemmed from contaminated food consumed at recent family events in Caruthers and Clovis

(dizfoto1973 on Adobe Stock)
Mid Valley Times Staff
Published June 27, 2024  • 
10:30 am

FRESNO – The Fresno County Department of Public Health (FCDPH) has announced an active investigation into suspected cases of a rare, but serious, illness that attacks the body’s nerves and causes muscle paralysis. 

Within the week of the announcement, which was made on June 26, the FCDPH reported that it looked into a suspected multi-person outbreak of botulism that was likely related to contaminated food consumed at a family event on June 21 in Caruthers and June 22 in Clovis. The FCDPH is working closely with the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify the specific food source for their illness. 

Botulism is caused by a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum and related bacteria, which can attack the body’s nerves, leading to muscle paralysis-particularly of facial nerves and in severe cases difficulty breathing and even death. People can get botulism by ingesting the toxin through improperly home-canned, preserved or fermented foods, or through wounds infected with the bacteria. To avoid food-borne botulism, home-canning and preserving methods should follow proper guidelines and any items that are to be preserved are to be thoroughly cleaned of any soil prior to preparing. Botulism cannot be spread from person to person.

“Our local health department is working closely with area hospitals, state and national health agencies on this outbreak. While the risk to the general population is low, we are actively tracing those who may have consumed the contaminated food to ensure they get timely monitoring and treatment,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, Interim Health Officer for Fresno County. “This is also a good reminder for everyone to maintain safe food handling practices as we prepare for upcoming Independence Day festivities.”  

Symptoms of botulism usually begin with weakness and dizziness, followed by blurred vision, drooping eyelids and difficulty speaking or swallowing. As the illness progresses, it can cause paralysis that starts in the upper body and moves down to the legs. It is important that anyone ill with symptoms of botulism visit a health care provider immediately to be assessed. 

The FCDPH is collaborating with the CDPH to ensure that local hospitals are adequately supplied to treat botulism. For those who attended the family events and have botulism symptoms, call a healthcare provider or visit a local emergency department as soon as possible.

The FCDPH is continuing to monitor the situation in collaboration with the CDPH and partner health agencies and will give an update as new details become available.

Mid Valley Times Staff