7 Ariz. inmates treated for suspected botulism

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

FLORENCE, Ariz. -- Seven Arizona inmates who became seriously ill over the weekend are suspected to have botulism poisoning.

The seven inmates from Special Management Unit 1 of the Arizona State Prison Complex Eyman in Florence were hospitalized and remain in intensive care, according to Pinal County officials. They were treated with an anti-toxin.

On Monday, an eighth inmate was transported to the hospital for assessment and observation. His condition has not reached a threshold that the medical team and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe anti-toxin should be administered.

It is suspected that the inmates came in contact with the toxin from alcohol made by prisoners from fermented fruit, but this has not been confirmed. Samples of the "hooch" and specimens from the inmates were submitted to the CDC for testing.

Prison officials are closely monitoring the health of the other inmates.

Pinal County Public Health officials are working with the Department of Corrections and Arizona Department of Health Services on a cooperative investigation.

Botulism is not spread person to person through breathing, sneezing or other means. Most adult cases of botulism toxicity occur by the ingestion of the toxin in food or drink.  It can also occur by contamination of a wound or through IV drug use.
Muscle weakness and difficulty speaking, chewing and swallowing are symptoms in the early stages. Untreated, botulism toxicity can lead to generalized weakness, difficulty breathing and paralysis.
For more information on botulism visit www.cdc.gov.