A California man is on a ventilator in France after he got botulism from sardines on vacation, in an outbreak that has killed one person

  • One person is dead and over a dozen have been hospitalized in a botulism outbreak in France.

  • A couple from California on holiday in Bordeaux are among those who got sick.

  • The toxin is thought to have come from improperly preserved sardines they ate at a wine bar.

A man from California vacationing in France is on a ventilator after he and his partner developed botulism from eating improperly preserved sardines at a restaurant, in an outbreak that has killed one woman and hospitalized over a dozen others.

Botulism is caused by a toxin made by Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which attacks the nerves and causes difficulty breathing and muscle paralysis, and can lead to death if it isn't diagnosed and treated with an antitoxin quickly.

The bacteria exist naturally in a lot of places but don't always make people sick. However, in the right conditions, they can produce "one of the most lethal toxins known," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those conditions are more likely in improperly preserved, canned, or fermented foods.

France's publish health agency said in a statement on Friday that the outbreak was caused by jars of sardines preserved in oil by the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar in the popular foodie tourist destination of Bordeaux, which were served between September 4 and September 10.

It said 15 suspected botulism cases had been identified, and 10 were hospitalized. The people were from the US, Canada, Ireland, Great Britain, Spain, Germany, and Greece.

The restaurant's representative Stéphane Guitard told Insider his client is working with officials to find all the customers who ate at the restaurant during this period.

Matt Jackson was suddenly unable to talk or drink water

Matt Jackson and his partner Kristy Benner, from Hermosa Beach, California, visited the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar on September 4, where they ate a couple of small plates of charcuterie and sardines, the Associated Press reported.

While cycling to vineyards in the village of Saint-Emilion for a wine-tasting trip the next morning, Jackson started to feel unwell, Benner told AP.

He very quickly became unable to speak intelligibly or drink water because his mouth was so dry, and Benner thought he was having a stroke. Within 24 hours, he was taken to hospital and put on a ventilator. The couple were eventually both diagnosed with botulism.

Botulism is a rare but dangerous foodborne illness

Botulism is a rare illness, with only 10 to 25 cases recorded a year in France, according to a 2020 review. For this reason, it took doctors days to correctly diagnose the couple, AP reported.

At first, according to a GoFundMe page set up by the couple's friends, doctors initially thought Jackson might have Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which has similar symptoms to botulism. However, Benner also started to experience the same difficulty swallowing as Jackson, and she began to suspect that they both had botulism.

Other symptoms of foodborne botulism can include: fatigue, weakness, blurred vision, droopy eyelids and difficulty moving the eyes, a dry mouth, difficulty speaking and swallowing, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. Symptoms usually appear within 12 to 36 hours of being exposed to the toxin.

On September 11, medical lab results confirmed the couple had botulism, the GoFundMe page states. Benner has since been discharged from hospital, but Jackson remains on a ventilator because his response to the botulism has been "extremely severe," according to the GoFundMe page.

The restaurant owner threw out some sardines that smelled bad

The restaurant's manager, who was not named, told Sud-Oest, a regional French outlet, that he had thrown out some jars of the batch of sardines that are suspected to have caused the botulism because they smelled bad. But he decided to serve other jars to customers because they appeared to be in good condition.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Thierry Touzet, a local official in Bordeaux in charge of consumer safety, said that although the restaurant had never been reported for health violations, it had a "very artisanal" method for preserving sardines, The New York Times reported.

Read the original article on Insider