A rare outbreak of botulism—a serious food-borne illness—has killed a 37-year-old man from Northern California and hospitalized nine others. Everyone affected became ill after eating nacho cheese sauce from a gas station in Walnut Grove, California.
The California Department of Public Health has since issued a statement verifying that the cheese sauce tested positive for toxins released by the bacteria that causes botulism—a disease that has a terrifying effect on the nervous system, often causing blurry vision, slurred speech, paralysis, and, in 5 percent of cases, death. (Related: How Spinach Can Give You Food Poisoning)
Martin Galindo, the man who passed away, was a husband and father of two kids. He had been on a ventilator for a few weeks before eventually falling into a coma, according to a GoFundMe page created by his family. Another woman, Lavinia Kelly, became paralyzed after eating the cheese in April and has been in the hospital ever since, according to the Sacramento Bee. Her family says she can't even open her eyes.
Food-borne botulism is most commonly caused by eating foods contaminated with the botulinum toxin, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Most cases are traced back to homemade foods that weren't canned or preserved properly. It's much less common for botulism to occur in store-bought foods, and botulism-related deaths are extremely rare—about 20 cases a year to be exact.