Health

Five Contract Botulism From Gas Station Nacho Cheese

| by Michael Doherty
A plate of nachos.A plate of nachos.

At least five people contracted botulism after eating nacho cheese sauce from a Sacramento-area gas station.

On April 21, Lavinia Kelly went to the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in Walnut Grove, California, where she bought Doritos and drizzled them with nacho cheese sauce, KTLA reports.

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When Lavinia started to feel sick after eating the sauce, she called her sister, Theresa Kelly.

"My phone rings and I pick up the phone and it's her, and she can't articulate a word. And she's saying, basically she's saying 'Sister, I need you here now,'" Theresa recalled. Theresa said she worried for her sister's life, as Lavinia struggled to breathe and open her eyes.

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Lavinia is starting her third week in intensive care.

"Yeah, it's really scary," Theresa said. "And to think if her and my mother had eaten there, my mom's older. If my mom had eaten there, I don't know if we would have lost both of them."

"I've never seen my sister not have function of her body or be able to communicate," she added.

The Kelly family is suing the gas station for negligence, according to WABC.

"Somebody needs to be accountable," said Dawn Kelly, the sisters' mom. "Somebody needs to pay attention to what the heck they're ... what they're doing, you know? It's crazy,"

Theresa said she was grateful her sister, who is a mother of three, will likely recover from the illness.

"Thank God that we know she can recover," Theresa said. "We just don't know how long or how much effort and, and we've got somebody here every single morning, every single day. She's not left, not one minute. We want to make sure that she can communicate as much as possible."

Food-borne botulism is a rare and potentially fatal food poisoning that is caused by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria, according to WebMD. The bacteria produce a nerve toxin that can result in paralysis, and the condition is considered a medical emergency.

Botulism can be contracted from home-canned foods, like asparagus and beets, but has also been contracted from tomatoes, improperly handled baked potatoes, chopped garlic in oil and fermented or home-canned fish.

Botulism's symptoms include blurry vision, slurred speech, dry mouth and difficulty swallowing. If left untreated, parts of the body can become paralyzed, including the limbs or the muscles that help the body breathe.

If treated early, botulism can be treated with an antitoxin. The paralysis caused by the bacteria can still last for several weeks, even after treatment.

WebMD recommends boiling home-canned goods for 10 minutes before eating, as well as properly storing foods and serving baked potatoes while they're hot, to prevent botulism.

Sources: KTLA, WABC, WebMD / Photo credit: Stu_Spivack/Flickr

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