Although botulism is caused by one type of bacterium (Clostridium botulinum), there are actually three different types of botulism. Of these botulism types, infant botulism is statistically the most common. The other forms of botulism are foodborne botulism and wound botulism. All botulism types can be fatal, and all are considered medical emergencies.
There are three primary botulism types, distinguished by the manner in which they are contracted:
A fourth type of botulism is bioterror botulism.
All types of botulism can be fatal and are considered medical emergencies. Foodborne botulism can be especially dangerous, because many people can be poisoned by eating a contaminated food.
Statistically, infant botulism (which was recognized in the mid-'70s) is the most common type of botulism; however, the public still generally associates botulism with food poisoning in adults and children. The foodborne variety is the most avoidable of the botulism types.
Foodborne botulism is caused by eating foods that contain the botulism toxin. A common cause of botulism food poisoning is improperly preserved home-processed foods with low acid content, such as:
- Green beans
Less likely sources include fish products and other commercially processed foods.
The actual number of cases of this type of botulism in the United States is small -- approximately 9 outbreaks of foodborne botulism per year, with an average of 2.4 cases per outbreak.