How Common Is Infant Botulism and Does It Cause SIDS?
Because breathing is affected in the most severe stage of botulism-induced paralysis, researchers suspect a link between infant botulism and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death.
One study done 15 years ago showed that about 5 percent of children in California whose deaths were attributed to SIDS actually had died from infant botulism. Because of the difficulty of conducting such studies, however, the link between the two conditions remains poorly understood.
Infant botulism is serious, but rare, and not usually fatal. From 1976 through the end of 1993, 1,206 cases were confirmed in the United States. About 75 to 100 cases are reported annually.
About half of the cases of infant botulism are diagnosed in California. This is presumed to be due to the prevalence of C. botulinum spores in the state, its high number of births, and the pediatric community's familiarity with the disease, which results in more correct diagnoses. All of the infant cases involve babies less than one year old; the disease is most common in the second month of life.