Botulism occurs in people as well as horses but it is relatively rare in the human population. An average of 145 human cases are reported in the United States each year according to the National Centers for Disease Control. Of those about 15 percent are from consuming tainted food usually home-canned produce or meats that were not handled properly.
Another 65 percent of cases are infant botulism which is caused when the immature digestive tract is colonized by ingested C. botulinum spores. Wound botulism accounts for the other 20 percent of cases most of which result from the use of injected street drugs, such as black tar heroin.
People with botulism can also be treated with an antitoxin which is most effective when administered as early as possible after the onset of symptoms. For more information, go to the botulism listing at www.cdc.gov.
To read more about this disease in horses see “The Basics of Botulism,” in the October 2008 issue of EQUUS magazine.