(Bordeaux) One person died among a dozen suffering from botulism, a serious and rare neurological disease, after eating artisanal canned sardines in the same restaurant in Bordeaux last week.
The deceased victim is a 32-year-old woman who had visited Bordeaux with her partner before returning to her home in the Paris region.
According to the Dr Benjamin Clouzeau, an anesthetist-resuscitator at the Pellegrin hospital in Bordeaux, she presented herself “with signs not very indicative of the disease” to the emergency room of a hospital structure in Île-de-France, before suddenly succumbing at her from a cardio-respiratory arrest. His companion is in intensive care.
The Regional Health Agency (ARS) in Nouvelle-Aquitaine lists 12 cases in total, aged 30 to 40 years old with the exception of a woman in her seventies. Most are of foreign nationality (United States, Canada, Germany, Ireland).
Eight cases were hospitalized in Bordeaux, six of whom were on respiratory assistance on Wednesday afternoon, and two in Île-de-France (the couple). A Spanish consumer was treated in Barcelona, as was another man in Germany, returned home and taken care of in his country. “Their days are not in danger,” according to the doctor.
All these people have in common that they ate in the same restaurant, the “Tchin Tchin Wine Bar”, between September 4 and 10 in Bordeaux, where tourist numbers are high in September.
In this city center establishment, popular with Anglo-Saxon customers, all the patients ate sardines from homemade jars.
Possible new cases
The health authorities recommend that people who visited the restaurant on the same dates and present symptoms (diarrhea, vomiting, vision or speech problems) “see a doctor urgently or contact 15”.
Given the delay in action of the toxin that causes the disease, “we could have new cases until this weekend,” warned Benoît Elleboode, director general of the ARS.
Payment receipts and telephone numbers of potential customers were collected from the restaurant. Up to 25 people may have consumed nine jars, containing three or four sardines each, served at the table.
The Ministry of Health sent an alert message to all health professionals, in France and abroad via the WHO.
Botulism is a serious neurological condition, fatal in 5 to 10% of cases, caused by a very powerful toxin produced by the bacteria clostridium botulinum, which develops particularly in poorly preserved foods due to lack of sufficient sterilization.
In France, the majority of cases of botulism correspond to food poisoning by ingestion of the said toxin in cured meats, cold meats or preserves of family or artisanal origin.
“It is an extremely rare disease, which had almost disappeared, with an incidence of less than 0.4 per million in France,” said the Dr Clouzeau, describing the episode as “exceptional”.
An anti-toxin antidote was sent from a military stockpile in Marseille.
” Bad smell ”
An inspection by the Departmental Directorate for Population Protection (DDPP) was carried out on Monday in the establishment, confirming a “manufacturing defect” in canned sardines.
“The restaurateur confirmed that when the jars were opened, there was a bad smell and no vacuum,” underlined Thierry Touzet, deputy director of the DDPP.
“The establishment was rather well run”, but the professional “has a very artisanal operating mode which was not controlled”, he added, specifying that the establishment had never been reported in the past.
The prefecture prohibited the manager from manufacturing new products “until further notice” and prescribed a “thorough cleaning” of the bar-restaurant, which remained closed on Wednesday. All canned goods made on site were recorded. The first results of analysis of the samples are expected on Friday.
Botulism is a notifiable disease caused by neurotoxins which attack the nervous system, causing eye problems (double vision), difficulty swallowing and, in advanced forms, paralysis of the muscles, particularly respiratory muscles, which can lead to death.
According to the Dr Clouzeau, the treatment of patients in intensive care promises to be long “because once the toxin is blocked and fixed, it paralyzes the muscles for several weeks”, with various risks of complications.