At least six cases of botulism have been recorded in Vietnam in May, according to health officials. Three of the patients are children.

The Vietnam Ministry of Health reported three botulism patients in Ho Chi Minh City being treated at Cho Ray Hospital.

Botulinum poisoning is a rare but life-threatening condition, caused by toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. It often paralyzes breathing muscles.

In mid-May, four people fell sick after eating pork sausages bought from a street vendor. Three children, aged 14, 13, and 10, were diagnosed with botulism poisoning and treated with antitoxin.

Cho Ray Hospital reported discovering three more cases of botulinum in the city of Thu Duc from two families. Two male patients, aged 18 and 26, had eaten food from a street vendor. Also, a 45-year-old consumed fish sauce that officials said had been stored for a long time. Local media reported the 45-year-old man, who was admitted to a different hospital, had died.

WHO helps supply treatment drugs
After treating the initial three cases, the hospital had no stock of antitoxin left and doctors said running out of the drug was a very big problem for patients and a dilemma for staff treating them.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was involved in finding a supply of antitoxin to treat botulinum poisoning, which has now arrived in Vietnam.

The Ministry of Health said to be more proactive in such situations in the future it will work on ways to ensure a supply of rare drugs and storage in stockpiling centers. The agency added a current problem is the cost and expiry of such stored drugs because of the low number of patients.

Earlier this year, the Vietnam Food Administration (VFA) noted three incidents of food poisoning in Quang Nam province. An outbreak in Phuoc Duc caused four cases and one death. The source was a type of fish contaminated with Clostridium botulinum type E.

In 2020, around a dozen people were affected by a botulism outbreak linked to a tinned vegetarian pâté. Clostridium botulinum type B was detected in three opened tins of pâté collected from the homes of patients.

In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. However, they can occur as soon as six hours or up to 10 days later. Symptoms may include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing or breathing, paralysis, a thick-feeling tongue, dry mouth, and muscle weakness.

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