Management of animal botulism outbreaks: from clinical suspicion to practical countermeasures to prevent or minimize outbreaks

Anniballi, F.; Fiore, A.; Löfström, Ch.; Skarin, H.; Auricchio, B.; Woudstra, C.; Bano, L.; Segerman, B.; Koene, M.G.J.


Botulism is a severe neuroparalytic disease that affects humans, all warm-blooded animals, and some fishes. The disease is caused by exposure to toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum and other botulinum toxin–producing clostridia. Botulism in animals represents a severe environmental and economic concern because of its high mortality rate. Moreover, meat or other products from affected animals entering the food chain may result in a public health problem. To this end, early diagnosis is crucial to define and apply appropriate veterinary public health measures. Clinical diagnosis is based on clinical findings eliminating other causes of neuromuscular disorders and on the absence of internal lesions observed during postmortem examination. Since clinical signs alone are often insufficient to make a definitive diagnosis, laboratory confirmation is required. Botulinum antitoxin administration and supportive therapies are used to treat sick animals. Once the diagnosis has been made, euthanasia is frequently advisable. Vaccine administration is subject to health authorities' permission, and it is restricted to a small number of animal species. Several measures can be adopted to prevent or minimize outbreaks. In this article we outline all phases of management of animal botulism outbreaks occurring in wet wild birds, poultry, cattle, horses, and fur farm animals.