Botulism seen and heard: seal flipper, symptoms and bamboo

Adding to my neurosis around botulism there are multiple stories about the devastating foodborne illness this week. I’ve never had fermented seal flippers but the traditional method of making the northern delicacy usually includes burying the appendages. It used to be directly in the ground but plastic containers are generally used now.

And when the fermentation is done incorrectly the outcomes can be dangerous.

According to KDLG, three Alaskans are ill with suspected botulism after eating seal flipper.delicacy-fermented-flippers

Three people have contracted botulism after eating separate batches of fermented seal flipper in Koyuk.

Alaska’s Division of Public Health says the first case presented signs of the illness on Friday, with two more becoming sick by Monday afternoon. All three have been transported to Anchorage for emergency medical treatment, and officials say an investigation to “identify and monitor” others who may be at risk is currently underway.

Last August a botulism outbreak in Lower Kalskag killed one person and sickened two others. Just before Christmas, an outbreak attributed to a batch of seal oil from Twin Hills hospitalized several people in Quinhagak, Twin Hills, and Dillingham.

In related news via ABC6 while Ohio medical officials were prepared for crisis, managing the tragic Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church botulism outbreak was emotional.

One of the doctors who was on the front lines during the outbreak was Dr. Jared Bruce. “It was pretty stressful, I mean as a hospital, you prepare and drill for times like that, but when it actually happens that is when everybody comes together.”

Bruce said family members were dealing with grief and anger, but they were always supportive. “I can’t count the number of times somebody came up to me that day during all of that and said we are praying for you, and these are family members who are by their loved one who is sick.”

And there’s some commercially preserved bamboo shoots that have been recalled in Thailand – for botulism concerns.

This entry was posted in Other Microorganisms and tagged , , , by Ben Chapman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.