Fermented beaver tail likely source of botulism outbreak

Posted: Friday, January 19, 2001

DILLINGHAM (AP) -- Thirteen people were hospitalized on Thursday with suspected botulism after eating fermented beaver tail in the village of Manokotak.

Two of the most seriously ill patients were flown by helicopter to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, and a third was en route Thursday evening, hospital officials said.

The ill villagers initially were rushed to Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham. The hospital was alerted to the problem Thursday morning.

The Bristol Bay Health Corp. helped coordinate the evacuations from Manokotak, which is about 40 miles from the hospital.

Four people were admitted to the hospital and six were being held for observation. Hospital spokesman Bill Burinda said he believed the victims were not all members of the same family.

There are an average of 110 cases of botulism reported each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most cases of botulism in food are caused by eating contaminated home-canned foods.

Symptoms include blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. If untreated, the disease can worsen, leading to respiratory failure and death in about 8 percent of cases.

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