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Rare Case of Infant Botulism In Scotland

Scotland’s first case of infant botulism since the Health Protection Agency began keeping records is the subject of intense interest.

Baby Logan Douglas, the infant son of young parents, is in critical but stable condition at Edinburgh Sick Kids Hospital where he remains on a ventilator.  He was originally admitted to a hospital in Kirkcaldy six weeks ago.

honey-bee-featured.jpg“He’s our bonnie lad and we are looking forward to getting him back home soon and seeing him smile again,” says Alex Douglas, the boy’s father.  He and the tot’s 24-year old mother, Theresa Fitzpatrick, are keeping a vigil at his bedside in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Logan’s survival is credited to a doctor that ordered the test for botulism as soon as noticed the toddler was suffering from paralysis.

Infant botulism was first recognized in 1976.  Since then about 1,000 cases have been reported worldwide, mostly in the United States.  The United Kingdom (UK) has seen only six cases, and none had been reported in Scotland until Logan contracted it.

Botulism can be transmitted by food, including honey.  Health warnings in the UK since 1978 have advised parents not to give babies under one year old any honey.  It is, however, still common for honey to be applied to a pacifier or what the Scots call “a dummy.”

The Scottish Sun newspaper says that’s how Logan may have contracted botulism.

The last infant botulism case in the UK involved a baby girl who contracted the disease on a trip to Spain in 2001.   She was on a ventilator for over a month.

“Botulism causes massive paralysis,” says Professor Nigel Minton of Nottingham.  “The organism colonizes in the gut and produces toxin in infants.  It takes a long time to recover.  It causes damage but the body will eventually repair that damage.”

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