2 Calif. Sisters Remain in ICU After Contracting Foodborne Botulism from Home-Canned Cactus Salad

Ten people were treated for botulism — a disease caused by neurotoxins formed in contaminated food — after two family events

<p>GETY</p> Stock hospital beds


Stock hospital beds

Two California sisters remain in the ICU after eating a cactus salad contaminated by botulism.

Fox 26 News reported that the Fresno County Department of Health (FCDH) was alerted to the outbreak of the rare condition on Monday, June 24, when 10 people were hospitalized in Clovis and Selma with vertigo and blurred vision after eating cactus salad at two separate family gatherings. Most were able to go home after being treated with an anti-toxin.

Botulism is a rare condition caused by bacteria that attacks nerves in the body and can cause symptoms like trouble swallowing and speaking, blurred vision, facial weakness, trouble breathing, nausea and paralysis, per the Mayo Clinic. It can be fatal in rare cases.

The 10 people hospitalized in Fresno County, Calif., had attended family events on Friday, June 21 and Saturday, June 22, ABC 30 Action News reported. They had all eaten the cactus salad, known as "nopales."

One of the women who remain hospitalized had also eaten the salad on Sunday, June 23, Fox 26 reported.

Related: Woman Gets Botulism, Becomes Paralyzed After Eating Pesto From a Farmer's Market: 'My Body Stopped Working'

Foodborne botulism is often caused by home-canning, because the bacteria that causes the condition thrive in environments with little oxygen, according to Mayo.

Although the cactus in the salad was originally thought to be frozen, officials learned that the woman who prepared the salad used home-canned cactus she had prepared in May, Norma Sanchez, Communicable Disease Specialist with FCDH said per Fox 26.

Related: Woman, 32, Dies of Botulism Poisoning After Eating Sardines at French Bar

“Home-canning is done all the time, but we want people to be careful,” said Dr. Vohra, per Fox 26. “The risk is real and unfortunately we found botulism can happen with these home-canned cactus pads known as nopales.”

Fox 26 reported that officials think the woman who prepared the salad didn't use enough salt to sterilize her environment in the canning process.

“This is a great opportunity to teach the community,” Dr. Vohra, per Fox 26.

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In the statement, the doctor also gave an update on the sisters' conditions, which KVPR reported.

“They require ventilation with machine support just because their muscles and nerves are affected so severely,” Dr. Vohra said. She's hoping that the treatment will eventually lead to a full recovery.

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