Family blames botulism from nacho cheese for death of California man

Martin Galindo, married and the father of two children, died at a hospital after a rare case of botulism, his family said. The California Department of Health has not yet confirmed botulism caused Galindo's death. Photo courtesy of GoFundMe

May 21 (UPI) — An outbreak of botulism from nacho cheese sauce at a northern California gas station sickened 10 people and possibly killed a man.

The state Department of Health on Friday confirmed the hospitalizations are linked to a gas station in Walnut Grove.

A 37-year-old man from Antioch, Martin Galindo, died in a hospital in San Francisco Thursday night after contracting what his family said is a rare case of botulism. KGO-TV reported he contracted botulism from nacho cheese bought at the station. The Health Department has not yet confirmed botulism caused Galindo’s death.

According to a GoFundMe page, Galindo fell into a coma.

The affected products were purchased between April 22 and May 5 at Valley Oaks Food and Fuel.

Inspection reports show that on May 6 and 7, officers impounded bags of Montecito nacho cheese tortilla chips and closed the facility. On May 8, health officers from the state Department of Health impounded four bags of Gehls cheese sauce for inspection and reopened the store for prepackaged food items only.

California state officials have not yet determined the cause for the botulism outbreak — whether it originated from the manufacturing of the cheese or whether the outbreak originated from within the gas station itself as an in-house contamination.

“CDPH believes there is no ongoing risk to the public,” the California Public Health Department said in a statement.

Botulism is a nerve-paralyzing illness caused by toxins. The bacteria linked to this case, Clostridium botulinum, grows on food improperly canned or preserved, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria causes double or blurred vision, blurred speech, dry mouth and muscle weakness.

If caught before the onset of paralysis, an antitoxin can be used to treat botulism. The percentage of patients with botulism who have died as a result of antitoxin use has dropped from 50 percent to 5 percent over the past 50 years, according to the CDC.

“Across the U.S. in adults there’s probably less than 100 cases of food borne botulism per year,” Dr. Brett Laurence, an infection control specialist at Sutter General, said to KTXL-TV.

Lavinia Kelly, 33, of Sacramento, picked up a bag of chips and nacho cheese sauce at the station.

Her attorney, Bruce Clark, said Kelly felt ill the same day she consumed the food, and went to Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento. After being discharged, she returned to the emergency room the next day and her condition worsened. By the next morning, she needed assistance from a ventilator.

Lavinia has three children and had been preparing for a wedding.

“The cruel thing about the toxin is it induces a slow, creeping paralysis starting at the head and moving down and includes the respiratory muscles,” Clark said. “They slowly lose the ability to breathe. If you can get on mechanical ventilation, your chances of survival are good. All will have some residual neurological damage.”


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