Unless you've been living in a cave the last 10 years, you probably already know that Botox is a therapeutic agent derived from the bacterium Clostridium Botulinum, which in certain strains is botulism, a dangerous paralytic illness.
Vaccines have not been developed directed against botulism, which makes prevention of infant botulism or other forms of the disease difficult, since exposure to the botulinum toxic is typically unrecognized.
Infants, however, cannot receive this antitoxin and are usually treated instead with injections of human botulism immune globulin (BIG), an antiserum that neutralizes the botulinum toxin.
Although these spores are commonly found in soil, honey is a more frequent source of spores causing infant botulism by lodging in the baby's intestinal tract and producing the neurotoxin.
Domesticated animals such as dogs, cattle, and mink are affected by botulism C toxin, which also affects birds and has caused massive die-offs in domestic bird flocks and wild waterfowl.
It may be helpful to remember how rare botulism is, how easy it is to assure food safety, and also that morbidity and mortality can be avoided with early recognition of the symptoms.
Adult botulism outbreaks are usually associated with toxins found in home-canned food, although poisoning occasionally results from eating commercially canned or vacuum-packed foods.
Laboratory tests are used to make a definitive diagnosis, but if botulism seems likely, treatment starts immediately without waiting for test results, which may take up to two days.
In infant botulism, the infant's stool may be cultured to isolate the organism; this test may be performed by the state health department or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Treatment of food poisoning, except for botulism, focuses on preventing or correcting dehydration by replacing critical fluids and electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhea.