Botulism is a toxic illness caused by a bacteria commonly found in the soil. It can be contracted by eating foods contaminated with the toxin itself or its spores, or less often, through bacteria which enter an open wound. Home-canned vegetables, meats, and seafood products are frequent hosts, as are other warm, moist environments with little oxygen, and an alkaline pH of four point six or higher. Avoid canned products if the can is puffy or swollen, and any perishable food that's set at room temperature for over four hours. Though botulism is rare, it can be fatal. Adding to the danger is the fact that botulism has no taste or smell. From the time of ingestion, it typically takes between 12 and 36 hours for symptoms to develop, though they can occur much sooner or later. Anti-toxins or other medicines must be administered by a doctor, and early treatment is vital. So be aware of the warning signs: blurred or double vision, slurred speech, eyelids that sag, trouble swallowing, dryness of the mouth, and weak muscles. Other conditions may cause similar symptoms, but because botulism is so deadly, it's best to call 9-1-1 or get help right away. For more information, consult a doctor.
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