NORTH WALES, Pa. (CBS) — A spooky case of infant botulism in Montgomery County. It is rare, but southeastern Pennsylvania is a hot spot for soils to become contaminated with deadly bacteria.
Botulism is a paralytic toxin we commonly hear about being associated with Botox to reduce wrinkles, but when it infects newborns, it is a life-threatening infection.
She is beautiful in pink and is now peaceful at home in North Wales, but when Kiara Craney was just 2 weeks old, she was rushed to the hospital.
“So, she was lethargic,” said Kiara’s mom Allison Sutliffe. “She was not feeding. She was crying weakly.”
The diagnosis was shocking. The child had botulism, a toxin that first attacks the intestines and can then cause paralysis.
“We don’t know what’s going on,” said Mark Cranny, Kiara’s father. “It was scary, and it was very upsetting.”
Infant botulism can come from honey or soil contaminated with bacteria.
Kiara wasn’t exposed either, so the source of her infection remains a mystery, but botulism is mostly prevalent in California and southeastern Pennsylvania.
“For us, this region, unfortunately, is one of the hot spots for botulism in the country,” said Dr. Katherine Ziegler with Jefferson Health Abington.
Ziegler was on the Jefferson Health team at Abington Hospital that saved Keira’s life.
“This kid was close to dying of botulism,” she said. “Within half an hour of our stay in the NICU, he stopped breathing.”
The only treatment for botulism is an anti-toxin called BabyBig, and it is only available in California.
Ziegler said it didn’t take long for treatment to arrive. It was overnight and arrived on time.
“I was scared,” Allison said.
It was five days of terror for Kiara’s parents, who are relieved that the family is reunited.
“That’s awesome,” said Mark. “We are happy to be a family.”
They are tears of relief and joy, and don’t expect any complications to baby Kira.
“She’s perfect. Beyond perfect,” Allison said.
Kiara is doing so well because she was treated early. Doctors say this is important for surviving botulism.
There are only about 125 cases a year in the US and only a dozen of them occur here in Pennsylvania.
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