PDF Version of this Fact Sheet
What is Botulism?
Botulism is a paralyzing illness caused by a nerve toxin, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum
Botulism usually occurs in three forms:
A person can be exposed by breathing in the toxin if it is intentionally released into the air. This does not occur naturally.
How likely is it that I have actually been exposed to botulinum toxin?
That depends on how the toxin was released. In the event of an
aerosol exposure, where the toxin was released and where you were
relative to the release site will be important determinants of your
exposure. If the toxin was put into food or water, exposure will depend
on the quantity and types of food you ate. As part of the investigation
about the current situation, someone may be interviewing you or
providing you with additional information to help determine your
likelihood of exposure.
How do I know if I need any treatment now?
You will need treatment only if you begin to develop any of the
symptoms below. In the event that you develop symptoms, treatment is
You should watch for the following symptoms for at least 7-10 days:
Contact your health care provider immediately if you develop any of these symptoms
Even if it was determined that you were not likely to have been
exposed you should still watch for the above symptoms and contact health
authorities if you develop them.
Do I need to worry about being contagious to others?
Botulism does NOT spread from person to person. Even if you develop
symptoms of botulism, you are NOT contagious to other persons.
Who can my health care provider or I call if we have questions or concerns?
201 W. Preston Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-2399
(410) 767-6500 or 1-877-463-3464