Botulism Suspected in 7 Seriously Ill State Prison Inmates

FLORENCE – Seven inmates, all from Special Management Unit 1 of the Arizona State Prison Complex Eyman in Florence, are suspected to have botulism poisoning.  The process to confirm botulism takes time but proactive treatment can begin after consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 

Four inmates became seriously ill on Saturday and are hospitalized and undergoing treatment.  Late Saturday, a fifth man arrived who was exhibiting symptoms.  Before noon on Sunday, two more inmates were hospitalized.  All seven are in intensive care.

 

Once the CDC receives preliminary confirmation that botulism poisoning may have sickened individuals, the CDC authorizes the release of anti-toxin to the state.  The CDC released the anti-toxin to the qualified medical providers who are treating the affected inmates.

 

Pinal County Public Health Officials are working with the Department of Corrections and Arizona Department of Health Services on a cooperative investigation, which includes:

 

Isolating and eliminating the source of the botulism.  The source is believed to be contraband prisoner-made alcohol but this has not been confirmed by the ongoing investigation.

Determining if any other prisoners are affected.

Prison officials are closely monitoring the health of inmates in the same pod.

 

It is suspected that the inmates came in contact with the toxin from home-made prison ‘hooch,’ made from fermented fruit.  This has not been confirmed by laboratory testing.  Samples of the booze, often called ‘pruno,’ were obtained and submitted to the CDC for testing.

 

Sickness and death from botulism toxicity was more common many years ago, often coming from home-canned food and fruits.  Increased attention to food safety and proper food handling methods has dramatically decreased the number of human toxicity cases from botulism.

 

Botulism is not spread person-to-person through breathing, sneezing or other means.  Most adult cases of botulism toxicity occur by the ingestion of the toxin in food or drink.  It can also occur by contamination of a wound or through IV drug use.

 

Muscle weakness and difficulty speaking, chewing and swallowing are symptoms in the early stages.  Untreated, botulism toxicity can lead to generalized weakness, difficulty breathing and paralysis.

 

A very weak form of the botulism toxin is the commercial cosmetic product sold under the brand name Botox.

 

CDC Information on Botulism: http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/botulism/

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