UPDATE: WHO Issues Health Alert After Botulism Outbreak In French City Of Bordeaux

Image of couple sat in a restaurant.

Image of couple sat in a restaurant. Credit: UfaBizPhoto/shutterstock.com

Friday, September 22 at 0:45 am

AT 15 customers of a restaurant in Bordeaux were identified by the local authorities as ‘suspected cases of botulism’ after eating sardines.

Meticulous work by the health authorities in the French city allowed all 15 potential patients to be located, one of whom tragically died, as reported by cnews.fr.

They were all verified as customers of the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar between September 4 and 10, where they were found to have all consumed canned sardines.

Two Rugby World Cup matches were played in Bordeaux during that period. Analysis of credit card receipts by the authorities showed that at least 25 people in total could have been ‘exposed’ to the suspected fish, which means they could have possibly eaten the same sardines.

On Wednesday 20, the WHO published a situation update concerning the detection of a potential botulism cluster in Bordeaux at the beginning of September.

‘Due to the incubation period of up to eight days and the fact that the restaurant attracted international visitors during the Rugby World Cup, it is possible that further cases will be reported in France, or possibly outside France when travellers return home, until September 18’, said the WHO.

It added: ‘Among the cases already identified are nationals of Canada, Germany, Greece, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States’.


Thursday, September 14 at 8:02 pm

ONE person has died and eight more have been hospitalised after they dined at the same restaurant in the French city of Bordeaux last week.

In total, 10 cases of: ‘clinically suggestive of food-borne botulism’, on Tuesday, September 12, according to the Directorate General of Health (DGS). It has warned of the seriousness of this situation and is carrying out investigations to identify the source of the contamination.

The outbreak is believed to be linked to the consumption of sardines from a jar by diners at the city’s Tchin Tchin Wine Bar between September 4 and 10. This restaurant has a large clientele from the local British community, according to capital.fr.

According to Sky News, Irish citizens were confirmed as among those who visited the establishment during that period. A resuscitation doctor from Bordeaux University Hospital confirmed the death of one of the victims in the Paris region.

It’s believed the diners affected, some of whom have been confirmed as Irish citizens, had eaten sardines between 4 and 10 September. Others who might have visited the location are urged to contact the health authorities as a precaution.

What is botulism?

Botulism is a serious neurological disease caused by a toxin produced by bacteria. It is usually found in poorly stored foods. Of the seven existing forms of botulinum toxins (A to G), four of them (A, B, E and F) can cause human botulism.

The disease develops through the presence of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which synthesises an ‘extremely powerful’ toxin .

This generally develops in poorly preserved foods, particularly those that have not undergone an extensive sterilisation process such as cured meats, cold meats or even preserves of family or artisanal origin. The disease therefore often occurs after food poisoning.

There is also a form of infant botulism, which occurs in newborns, whose immune system is not yet ready to defend itself against microbes, after colonisation of the intestine by the bacteria.

This type of botulism is attributed to the ingestion of honey or dust containing spores of the bacteria in question. The disease can also occur in rare cases after a wound becomes infected, most commonly in people who inject drugs.

What are the symptoms of this disease?

Botulism first manifests in the form of digestive disorders, blurred or double vision, a dry mouth associated with difficulty swallowing and even speaking, as well as muscle paralysis varying in intensity. In severe cases, this can result in respiratory failure and even death. Botulism is fatal in 5 to 10 per cent of cases.

The disease has an incubation period of anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on the mode of contamination.

‘In general, people who have shared the same foods manifest identical symptoms, but with varying severity’, specified the Pasteur Institute on its website.

This variability explains the difference in reaction between people who had been to the Bordeaux restaurant. As of Wednesday morning, September 13, eight of them remained hospitalised in Bordeaux and Île-de-France, including seven in intensive care or in a continuous monitoring unit.

What are the existing treatments?

Antibiotics have no action on botulinum toxin. If symptoms occur, immediate medical attention is essential. Within 24 hours after ingestion, healthcare professionals can use serotherapy, which involves injecting immunising serum into the body. For a severe form, the patient is admitted to intensive respiratory care with assisted ventilation.

An anti-botulinum vaccine exists but it is reserved solely for exposed people, such as laboratory workers, because its side effects are significant, according to la-croix.fr.

This disease remains rare in France. Since 1980, there have been 20 to 30 outbreaks of botulism per year, involving one that affected three patients, most often occurring after food poisoning.  To avoid this, it is recommended to cook food well and keep it at the right temperature.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com