What You Need to Know About Botulism

Treating Botulism

Treatment of this illness includes:
  • Careful observation
  • Supportive care
  • Administering a botulism antitoxin.
Antibiotics are of little use to treat the symptoms caused by the toxin, but healthcare providers use them to treat wound botulism. Currently, there is no vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use on botulism. Research on a vaccine, however, is at an advanced stage.
(Click Botulism Treatment for more information.)


Botulism can result in death due to respiratory failure. However, in the past 50 years, the proportion of patients with botulism who die has fallen from about 50 percent to 8 percent. A patient with a severe case may require a breathing machine as well as intensive medical and nursing care for several months. Patients who survive an episode of botulism poisoning may have fatigue and shortness of breath for years, and long-term treatment may be needed to aid recovery.

Statistics on Botulism

In the United States, an average of 110 cases of botulism are reported each year. Of these, approximately:
  • 25 percent are foodborne botulism
  • 72 percent are infant botulism
  • 3 percent are wound botulism.
The number of cases of foodborne and infant botulism has changed little in recent years, but wound botulism has increased because of the use of black-tar heroin, especially in California.

Botulism Disease

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