BOTULISM is a neuroparalytic condition affecting birds, mammals and fish, and is caused by exposure to toxins produced by various biotypes of Clostridium botulinum. Until a few years ago, botulism was considered to be a rare disease in farm animals in the UK. However, since 2003, there has been an upsurge in the number of suspected cases reported, particularly in cattle and more recently sheep. The diagnosis of botulism is problematic and relies heavily on clinical signs. Confidence in the diagnosis is improved by identifying the risk factors and suspect sources, and by ruling out the more common differential diagnoses. This article describes the clinical signs of classic and atypical disease, and discusses the implications of a diagnosis of botulism with regard to animal welfare, food safety and public health.
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