County Working with State Corrections & Health Officials on Cooperative Investigation
FLORENCE – Four inmates, all from Special Management Unit 1 of the Arizona State Prison Complex Eyman in Florence, are suspected to have botulism poisoning. The process to confirm botulism takes time but proactive treatment can begin after consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All four inmates are hospitalized and undergoing treatment. Three are known to be in stable condition. The condition of the fourth inmate is unknown at press time.
Once the CDC receives preliminary confirmation that botulism poisoning may have sickened individuals, the CDC authorizes the release of anti-toxin to the state. The CDC has released the anti-toxin to the Arizona Department of Health Services which is delivering it to the qualified medical providers who are treating the affected inmates.
Pinal County Public Health Officials are working with the Department of Corrections and Arizona Department of Health Services on a cooperative investigation, which includes:
- Isolating and eliminating the source of the botulism. The source is believed to be contraband prisoner-made alcohol but this has not been confirmed by the ongoing investigation.
- Determining if any other prisoners are affected. At this point more cases are highly unlikely.
- Prison officials are closely monitoring the health of inmates in the same pod.
Sickness and death from botulism toxicity was more common many years ago, often coming from home-canned food and fruits. Increased attention to food safety and proper food handling methods has dramatically decreased the number of human toxicity cases from botulism.
Botulism is not spread person-to-person through breathing, sneezing or other means. Most cases of botulism toxicity occur by the ingestion of the toxin in food or drink. It can also occur by contamination of a wound or through IV drug use.
Muscle weakness and difficulty speaking, chewing and swallowing are symptoms in the early stages. Untreated, botulism toxicity can lead to generalized weakness, difficulty breathing and paralysis.
A very weak form of the botulism toxin is the commercial cosmetic product sold under the brand name Botox.
CDC Information on Botulism: http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/botulism/