5-week-old baby seriously ill with infant botulism

A 5-week-old baby has been warded in paediatric ICU after showing infant botulism symptoms. "It's heartbreaking," says his mummy...

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A five-week-old baby is in a paediatric ICU ward after showing infant botulism symptoms. 

“Seeing him being put on the ventilator and everything, it’s heartbreaking,” says his mummy.

Newborn Baby in Hospital After Showing Infant Botulism Symptoms

The incident happened in Roanoke, Virginia, U.S.. 

Mummy Jessica Hunter reveals how she first noticed that something was not right with her baby, Nickolas St. Clair.

“He was struggling, and he wouldn’t take his bottle,” she tells The Roanoke Times.

By the time the baby was taken to hospital, he already had difficulty in breathing.

Initially, doctors suspected the child had a sepsis infection. But soon Nickolas started showing more infant botulism symptoms.

What began with fussiness, lethargy and an unwillingness to eat, progressed to low muscle tone and the inability to suck or gag.

What Could Have Caused His Infant Botulism?

Photo: Screengrab, The Roanoke Times

Exposure to Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) spores causes botulism. However, identifying the exact source can be complicated. Officials have visited Nickolas’ home to look for spores and have also taken his formula for testing.

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Apart from food, botulism spores occur in moist, upturned soil and construction dust. Nickolas’s father works in construction, pouring concrete, so the baby might have been exposed from the dust.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Jason Faulhaber says, “Despite how well you brush off or clean, these spores are very, very hardy.

“You just have to have a couple of them on your hand, and if it gets transferred to the baby, and the baby ingests it, that’s where the infection takes place.”

Nickolas’ condition is slowly improving, but since it is botulism, he will have to spend more days in hospital for recovery and monitoring.

The family has now set up a gofundme.com account to help cover their household bills. We hope this little baby gets well soon.

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What Is Botulism in Babies?

Infant botulism is a rare illness that can happen when a baby ingests bacteria that produce a toxin inside the body. 

Exposure to Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) spores causes this illness. Bacteria from the spores can grow and multiply in a baby’s intestines, producing a dangerous toxin.

The condition can occur in infants up to 12 months of age, because young babies have immature digestive systems.

Infant Botulism Symptoms

Symptoms of botulism begin between three to 30 days after an infant ingests the spores.

Though a treatment for infant botulism is available, it is important to get medical care as soon as possible. So take your baby to the doctor right away if you spot any of these warning signs.

Constipation is often the first sign of botulism that parents notice. It is also typically accompanied by floppy movements, weakness, and difficulty in sucking or feeding.

Other symptoms of botulism in babies can include:

  • Flat facial expression
  • Poor feeding (weak sucking)
  • Weak cry
  • Decreased movement
  • Trouble swallowing with excessive drooling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Breathing problems

Preventing Botulism in Babies

One important way to reduce the risk of botulism in babies is to not give infants honey or any processed food containing honey before their first birthday. 

Honey is a proven source of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. These bacteria are harmless to older kids and adults because their digestive systems are more mature.

To reduce the risk of contamination from C. botulinum spores, it is best to pressure-cook home-canned foods. Also, boil home-canned foods for 10 minutes before serving them.

Clostridium botulinum spores are everywhere in the environment. They’re in dust and dirt, and even in the air. So, avoid infant exposure to potentially contaminated soil or dust. This kind of exposure to contaminated soil occurs most often near construction and agricultural sites.

Source: Mayo Clinic, The Roanoke Times, WKYT

Also READ: 6-month-old baby dies after family feeds him honey