Five people have been hospitalized after eating nacho cheese from a Sacramento gas station, California officials said.
Officials have connected five botulism illness cases to Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in the Walnut Grove suburb, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Lavinia Kelly who was sickened last month has spent the past three weeks in intensive care after getting botulism.
Kelly is unable to speak or keep her eyelids open, her partner, Ricky Torres said.
The mother-of-three and her family have since filed a lawsuit against the gas station.
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Five people have been hospitalized after eating nacho cheese from a Sacramento gas station, California officials said. Lavinia Kelly (pictured), 33, who was sickened last month has spent the past three weeks in intensive care after getting botulism
Kelly (left and right) is unable to speak or keep her eyelids open, her partner, Ricky Torres said. The mother-of-three and her family have since filed a lawsuit against the gas station
On Wednesday, Kelly celebrated her 33rd birthday from her hospital room, unable to move. Symptoms of the botulism include double vision, slurred speech, drooping eyelids and muscle weakness
Kelly’s family say the 33-year-old was leaving work on April 21, when she stopped at Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in Walnut Grove for a snack.
She purchased some nacho cheese which she drizzled over a bag of Doritos. Within hours she started to feel sick.
In addition to the five confirmed cases, there are three more probable cases and one suspected case. All nine remain hospitalized.
Botulism is a potentially fatal poisoning that is caused by eating foods that have been contaminated with the botulinum toxin. It most commonly occurs in homemade canning, when the food is improperly preserved.
Symptoms of the illness include double vision, slurred speech, drooping eyelids and muscle weakness.
Kelly is a mother-of-three. She has been unable to move or even open her eyes by herself
Kelly’s family say the 33-year-old was leaving work on April 21, when she stopped at Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station (pictured) in Walnut Grove for a snack. She purchased some nacho cheese which she drizzled over a bag of Doritos. Within hours she started to feel sick
Torres told the Sacramento Bee that the following morning, Kelly went to the hospital when she started having double vision.
They sent her home a few hours later, but that evening she started vomiting and having difficulty breathing.
Her family drove her back to the emergency room, and the next day doctors hooked her up to a ventilation machine and admitted her to the intensive care unit.
‘I’ve never seen my sister … not have function of her body or be able to communicate. And I’ve never seen my sister on tubes or anything like that,’ Kelly’s older sister, Theresa, told KXTL.
Kelly’s partner says the poisoning has gotten so bad that Kelly can no longer open her eyes. If she wants to see someone, others have to hold her eyelids open.
On Wednesday, Kelly celebrated her 33rd birthday from her hospital room, unable to move.
The county revoked the gas station’s permit to sell food and drink on May 5 and is urging anyone who ate the gas station’s prepared foods from April 23 to May 5 to contact their doctor immediately.
Kelly’s sister Theresa wipes away a tear as she speaks about the tragic incident. Kelly’s family have since hired a Seattle law firm that specializes in food safety issues and they have filed a negligence lawsuit against the gas station
Kelly’s family have since hired a Seattle law firm that specializes in food safety issues and they have filed a negligence lawsuit against the gas station.
‘(The gas station) should have been more aware. They’re handling that stuff every day. I know they probably didn’t make the cheese per se, but they handle that stuff in the store,’ Torres said.
Just weeks before the poisoning, Kelly, left, was helping her sister, right, down the aisle
‘Somebody needs to be accountable. Somebody needs to pay attention to what the heck they’re… what they’re doing you know? It’s crazy,’ Dawn Kelly, Lavinia’s mother, added.
According to the lawsuit, Kelly’s ‘medical condition is poor, and her prognosis uncertain’.
Bruce Clark, the family’s lawyer, would not say how much money they are suing for, but he says similar cases in the past involved millions of dollars.
‘Only human mistakes create the environment for botulinum toxin to form,’ Clark said. ‘We will use the lawsuit to learn more about the source of the food product that was contaminated. The source of the food product may be unrelated to the gas station; it could be a commercially made, pre-packaged item. That’s an essential question.’
In 2014, there were 161 reported cases of botulism in the US. Only 15 of them were food-borne, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with medical costs.
Officials believe the culprit is the nacho cheese, but the investigation is ongoing. Employees have not responded to requests for comment.
RARE BUT POTENTIALLY FATAL: WHAT IS BOTULISM?
What is botulism?
Botulism is a rare but serious illness which can lead to paralysis.
It can be caused either by ingesting the botulinum toxin or by contamination in a wound. It cannot be transferred from person to person.
Botulism can lead to paralysis which usually starts with the muscles in the face – particularly those in the eyes and those used for chewing – and spreads towards the limbs.
In severe cases the breathing muscles can become paralyzed, causing respiratory failure.
What are the symptoms?
Other symptoms of food-borne botulism include blurred vision and difficulty swallowing and speaking, which can rapidly get worse.
The symptoms typically begin between 12 and 36 hours after eating a contaminated meal, but may appear in as little as six hours.
How is it treated?
Treatment for respiratory paralysis can require a patient to be on a ventilator for weeks as well as being treated in intensive care.
After several weeks, the paralysis usually slowly improves.