The death occurred in Utah, the botulism was likely acquired in Idaho, and the victim was a Wyoming resident.

The Wyoming Department of Health finds that the death of 56-year-old Hans Russell was ruled as an isolated incident without the exact source of the contamination being determined. The main theory is that Russell acquired botulism from tainted soup during a solo river trip in Idaho that he took last September. The Wyoming Department of Health investigation, however, has not been able to determine exactly how he came to be infected.

Wyoming’s last botulism case was in 2018, and no other cases are connected to Russell’s botulism infection.

Russell died one week ago at the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City. He was hospitalized for more than 60 days, completely paralyzed.

The progression of the disease was said to be as bad as botulism gets. “He could not move, he couldn’t talk, he couldn’t breathe, but he was conscious and aware and could understand and somewhat able to communicate,” said family friend and Russell’s boss, Jame s Peck.

Botulism is a rare toxin foodborne infection known for attacking the nervous system and shutting the body down. The toxin stems from anaerobic bacteria.

Russell was a Kansas native who as an adult adopted the Teton/Yellowstone area of Wyoming as his home where he earned a living as an outdoor and river guide. The Jackson Hole resident had worked for Peck’s Lewis and Clark Expeditions for the past six years.

About botulism
While a variety of food poisoning can result from eating under-processed food, one of the most dangerous is botulism poisoning. Untreated, botulism can paralyze the muscles needed for breathing, resulting in sudden death.

Anyone who has eaten any recalled products and developed signs of botulism poisoning should immediately seek medical attention, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. However, symptoms can begin as soon as 6 hours after or up to 10 days later,” according to the CDC website.

The symptoms of botulism may include some or all of the following: double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, a thick-feeling tongue, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. People with botulism poisoning may not show all of these symptoms at once.

These symptoms result from muscle paralysis caused by the toxin. If untreated, the disease may progress, and symptoms may worsen to cause paralysis of specific muscles, including those used in breathing and those in the arms, legs, and the body from the neck to the pelvis area.

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