Health Officials Investigating Rise in Infant Botulism Cases
By David Doolittle


Honey pacifiers purchased in Mexico are suspected in an unusual increase in infant botulism this year, state health officials said late last week.

From mid-August to the end of October, four babies had been treated for infant botulism, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said in a health alert Friday. The infants, residents of West, North, and South Texas, had been hospitalized for life-saving treatment. Texas had averaged seven to eight cases annually from 2013 to 2017, DSHS said. 

If you remember back to your medical school days, honey can contain spores of Clostridium botulinum, an organism that produces a potent neurotoxin known to cause severe illness in infants.

“Symptoms of botulism in infants under 12 months of age typically start with constipation and may include poor feeding and/or weak sucking, weakness, drooping eyelids, loss of head control, and difficulty breathing,” the health alert said. “Severity can range from mild illness with gradual onset to paralysis, respiratory failure, and death.”

Physicians should report all suspected cases immediately to public health officials, DSHS said. To obtain the antitoxin (Baby BIG) for treatment, contact the DSHS Infectious Disease Control Unit at (800) 252-8239. 

Investigators have found that pacifiers containing honey can be bought at retail stores and online. Parents might not be aware of the potential danger of giving honey to children younger than 1 year old, officials say.

Last Updated On

November 19, 2018

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David Doolittle


(512) 370-1385

Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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