Health: Infant Botulism Most Prevalent In Delaware Valley

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Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3 and The CW Philly 57’s Emmy Award-win...
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by Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A mysterious illness that’s lurking in our region.  Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has one case that baffled doctors at first.  It’s a 3 On Your Side exclusive.

Identical  twins Will and Tim Ipock had identical healthy lives in Delaware County, until they were six months old.  Suddenly Will gets sick.  His body becomes limp, like a rag doll.

“He seemed to be getting floppier, and he wasn’t able to eat and suck the way he should.  It was just really scary,” said Gretchen Ipock, Will’s mother.

At the emergency room, doctors initially thought Will was dehydrated, but he didn’t get better with fluids.

“It was incredibly frightening especially when the doctors and nurses came in at night and said this was way more serious than you ever expected,” said Gretchen.

Doctors suspected something mysterious and scary, infant botulism.  Will was rushed to Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children where it was confirmed.

“My first thought was what if one of my kids would die, you know, I think that’s every parents worse nightmare,” said Gretchen.

Botulism is the most deadly toxin known to man.  It can be in some food like honey, but the bacteria is usually in soil and can become airborn, especially around farms and construction sites where dirt is stirred up.  Our area has more cases than other regions.

“Delaware actually has the highest incidence in the country,” said Dr. Nick Slamon, a Critical Care Specialist at Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.  He says infant botulism is rare, fewer than 100 cases a year in the United States.

And the mystery with Will is he hadn’t been exposed to any of the usual sources of botulism.

“We’re not exactly sure where his exposure is, but what’s interesting about William is that he’s an identical twin, and he and his brother are never separated.  They eat the exact same diet.  They live in the exact same house.  They’re always together, and William got botulism and his twin didn’t,” said Dr. Slamon.

Doctors ordered the botulism antidote called BabyBIG.  Flown in from California soon after, Will started getting better.

He’s now reunited with his family at home, still getting therapy to restore his sucking and eating ability.  Most babies with botulism will make full recoveries.

“You think of so many things that could go wrong.  Botulism is not on the top of the list,” said Jason Ipock, Will’s father.

Botulism is only threatening to babies.  After the age of one, our bodies are able to fight off the bacteria.  Doctors say other than avoiding honey, there’s really no way to prevent botulism poisoning, but it’s important to know the signs, so it can be quickly treated.

For more information, simply click on the following links:

Infant Botulism Information

Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children

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