A family party near Fresno, California, resulted in 10 people being treated for botulism, a rare but serious illness caused by bacteria that affects the nervous system, public officials said Friday.

The culprit in the outbreak? Home-canned nopales, or cactus pads.

Two sisters are currently recovering in intensive care, a spokesperson for the Fresno County Department of Public Health told NBC News. One sister underwent a tracheostomy, a procedure to create a breathing tube in the neck, due to respiratory complications caused by the disease.

The eight other hospitalized individuals have been released, and there have been no new reported cases since.

“I’ve been here with the county for 26 years and this is the first time we’ve actually had a foodborne botulism outbreak,” Norma Sanchez, a disease specialist with the Fresno County Department of Public Health, said in a press briefing Tuesday.

Initially, the first two people who felt sick after the party were diagnosed with vertigo and sent home from the hospital, said Sanchez. It was only after a full-scale investigation, which included examining the family’s trash and interviewing party attendees, that the botulism was traced back to the home-canned nopales.

Sanchez learned from the cook that she had canned the nopales herself in May. As the incident was confined to family members and the homemade food, health officials did not need to remove any nopales from grocery shelves.

In the same press briefing, interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra warned community members about the risks of home-canned foods, noting that this practice is common in families looking to preserve tradition.

According to the CDC, botulism is caused by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria and can arise from improperly home-canned, preserved or fermented foods. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, muscle weakness and blurry vision.

Dr. Vohra emphasized that while botulism is a very serious and potentially fatal condition, most people who contract it can make a full recovery.


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