Major botulism outbreak leaves 30 Muscovites in intensive care

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More than 120 people have sought medical help in the Russian capital after suffering symptoms of botulism, a rare and potentially fatal disease caused by eating contaminated food, according to the city authorities.

Fifty-five people are in serious condition in the hospital, with 30 in intensive care, Moscow Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova told the media on Monday.

Foodborne botulism is caused by eating foods that have been contaminated with botulinum toxin, described by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “one of the most lethal toxins known.” It can be found in homemade foods that have been improperly canned, preserved, or fermented. Store-bought foods also can be contaminated with botulinum toxin.

Botulism causes difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis, and if left untreated, can lead to death. Early symptoms include fatigue and vertigo, usually followed by blurred vision, dry mouth, and difficulty in swallowing and speaking. Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur.

The patients in Moscow sought help in a timely manner and their lives are not in danger, Rakova said.

The first cases were reported in the capital on Friday and Saturday. Russia’s consumer health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, launched an investigation over the weekend.