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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2003 Jan 17;52(2):24-6.

Outbreak of botulism type E associated with eating a beached whale--Western Alaska, July 2002.


Botulism is a neuroparalytic illness caused by toxins produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, an obligate anaerobe found commonly in the environment. Intoxication with toxin type E is associated exclusively with eating animal foods of marine (salt or fresh water) origin. Persons who eat raw or fermented marine fish and mammals are at high risk for botulism from type E toxin. On July 17, 2002, the Alaska Division of Public Health investigated a cluster of suspected botulism cases among residents of a fishing village in Alaska. This report summarizes the findings of the outbreak investigation, which linked disease to eating raw muktuk (skin and a pink blubber layer) from a beached whale (Figure). To avoid delays in treatment, health-care providers evaluating patients suspected of having botulism should base treatment decisions on clinical findings. Public health authorities should be notified immediately about any suspected botulism case.

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