Botulism is normally caused by the consumption of improperly canned food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can also be contracted through an open wound or sore, the National Health Service notes.
Botulism is caused by a type of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum that is naturally found in soil and dirt and is not harmful to humans, explains the NHS. When food is canned, it is normally heated to kill the bacteria. If it is not killed before the food is canned, the bacteria produces a very harmful toxin once it is canned and deprived of oxygen.
The toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum causes paralysis that starts in the head and moves down the body, the NHS advises. Other symptoms of botulism include blurred or double vision, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing and speaking, facial weakness, and difficulty breathing.
Because the primary result of botulism is paralysis, treatment usually involves being attached to a breathing support machine until the paralysis improves, the CDC reports. Treatment may also include the use of an anti-toxin that prevents the toxin from circulating through the blood. Recovery from botulism can take months in some cases and requires constant medical care until the paralysis is gone.