Botulism in a Utah Prison

There was a major outback of Botulism in one of the craziest place imaginable, a prison.  Botulism is a toxin that causes serious illness from a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum.

In this case, 12 inmates became sick in October of 2011 after drinking what is called prison brew. The prison brew is a homemade alcohol concoction.  It is often called Pruno. It is apparently something that his done in every jail or prison around the country.  Botulism though, isn’t an active ingredient, and in this cause it caused a serious outcome. Botulism is part of the toxin that is used in medical procedures – Botox.

Three inmates became in critical condition and a total of eight inmates required serious treatment. Apparently, the sickness occurred after drinking the brew symptoms begin within less than 24 hours from consuming the brew.

They were subsequently taken to a local hospital and treated. They were taken to the hospital with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, facial paralysis, blurry vision, and other symptoms. This information was related to the local news station by prison officials.

The CDC or Centers for Disease Control was called and appears to have brought an antitoxin from Atlanta. This antitoxin is essential to help in the treatment process. Eight of the twelve inmates involved required the antitoxin. The other four did not apparently show enough symptoms to receive the antitoxin.

The Salt Lake Valley Health Department was also called to come in and investigate and help in any way possible. Health officials believe that there was at least a gallon of the fermented alcoholic drink made. A single sip of the brew is believed to have been potent enough to cause symptoms.

How to make Brew?

Brew is apparently easily made with a combination of food products. Water, fruit, sugar, bread, candies, and other ingredients are used. It is believed that the inmates may use toilets, and other areas of the inmates cell.

The Tribune did a report that between December of 2009 and December 2010, over 40 different reports from the Utah State Prison of confiscations of brew.

Where did Botulism come into play?

The answer to this remains unknown. The actual cause so far, cannot be identified. The brew was the most likely source due to those who were affected. The brew could have been made and somehow the bacteria Clostriudm botulinum got introduced and thrived in the brew itself.

Nicholas Rupp, a public information officer for the health department, reported that a sample of the brew was found and was being sent to the state lab for testing.

What is Botulism?

The important thing is that the bacteria produces a toxin and it is the toxin that causes the problems.  This disease is often seen in young children. Adult cases are quite rare and are typically associated with improper canning.

It is not transmitted from person to person. This is a good thing.

It can be very lethal – one micro-gram is lethal to humans. It causes problems with respiratory and musculoskeletal paralysis. Sometimes – in serious cases – Respiratory Failure can be seen.

The most commonly affected is Infant Botulism. The consumption of honey during the first year of life has been noted as a risk factor.

For Adults, often the bacteria has been allowed to grow in a anaerobic condition. Home-canned food substances and fermented uncooked dishes are at the top of the list.

Botulism in Utah

The last case of botulism in Utah was in 2003 and this is the first case of botulism in Salt Lake Valley in twenty years. Botulism is always a public health concern. The prison appears to have been an area where fermented and uncooked food caused several inmates to have become ill.

On one side it is hard to imagine inmates being able to create brew. But, for those who are a part of the prison setting understand that this is an unfortunate event. Stopping the creation of brew is as hard as stopping some inmates from returning to prison.

The response from the prison medical staff, the local hospitals, the CDC, and the Utah Public Health Department was strong and effective.

Serious medical problems ensued for some of the inmates, but overall, the treatment and management has been reported as a success.

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