A terrible story out of Sacramento: Five people, including a 33-year-old mother of three, have been hospitalized with botulism poisoning from botulinum bacteria after eating nacho cheese sauce from a gas station deli area several weeks ago. Sacramento County health investigators have connected all five cases to the Valley Oak Food and Fuel station in Walnut Grove, as Fox 40 reports, with the most serious case possibly being 33-year-old Lavinia Kelly, who remains in intensive care.
As the Daily Mail reports, all five victims remain hospitalized with similar, paralyzing illnesses. Kelly's partner, Ricky Torres, tells the Daily Mail that Kelly was driving home from work on April 21 when she stopped at the station and decided to pour the cheese sauce over a bag of Doritos. She began feeling fatigued within hours. She didn't go to the hospital until the next morning when she was having double vision and loss of motor control, and Sutter Medical Center actually sent her home a few hours later, according to the Sacramento Bee. Later that evening she began vomiting and having difficulty breathing, and Torres took her back to the emergency room.
Her sister Theresa Kelly tells Fox 40 that Lavinia called her that day and could not articulate the words well, but that she understood her sister was trying to say, "I need you here now."
Symptoms of botulism, which is caused by a nerve toxin that is released by the bacteria, include double vision, slurred speech, drooping eyelids, and muscle weakness.
According to the Chronicle, in addition to the five confirmed cases linked the gas station, four more are under investigation.
Currently, Lavinia Kelly is unable to open her eyes or breathe on her own, and her family has posted this GoFundMe page to assist with her ongoing medical care and to support her family while she's out of work. Thankfully she did have health insurance.
The Sacramento Bee reports that the gas station had its permit to sell food and drink suspended earlier this month, and this story gained attention after the family filed a lawsuit this week against the station for for negligence, product liability and breach of implied warranty. Per Fox 40 they've retained a Seattle law firm that specializes in food safety issues.
Per Consumerist, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s most recent National Botulism Surveillance Summary, there were 199 confirmed cases of botulism in the US in 2015, only 39 of which were food-borne. Most often, food-borne botulism is connected to home canning, when the canning process is done improperly.