Baby at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL recovering from infant botulism

DENVER - A five-month old is on a breathing machine at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL after contacting a rare disease called infant botulism.

Keona Hinkel has been in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit since January 2.

Hinkel's mother, Kari, told doctors she noticed Keona wasn’t eating as normal and the little girl seemed very tired on Jan. 1.

When Kari took Keona to the doctor's office the next day, the doctor told her to immediately take the baby to the emergency room.

At Sky Ridge Hospital, Keona stopped breathing and doctors intubated her. 

She was taken by Airlife to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL.

Hospital officials said a pediatric neurologist, Dr. Benjamin Ross, was the first to suspect botulism. Doctors treated Keona with Botulism Immune Globulin and she is improving.

Infant botulism is rare. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control reported 85 cases of infant botulism and in 2009 there were 84 confirmed cases, according to PS/L.

According to the National Institutes of Health, risk factors include swallowing honey as a baby, being around contaminated soil, and having less than one stool per day for a period greater than 2 months.

The Hinkel family said there are the two possible situations that could have led to Keona's botulism.

  • Spores in dust and dirt -- Keona and her parents were at a relative’s house under renovation.  They were in an area being worked on and the exposure could have happened at that time.
  • Indirect honey exposure – Kari was cooking with honey and it could have been on the counter or on Kari’s hands and then passed onto Keona.  Kari is breastfeeding and she did not directly feed Keona honey.

The NIH said symptoms include:

  • Breathing stops or slows
  • Constipation
  • Eyelids sag or partially close
  • Infant appears "floppy"
  • Infant doesn't gag
  • Loss of head control
  • Paralysis that spreads downward
  • Poor feeding and weak suckling
  • Respiratory failure
  • Tired all the time (lethargy)
  • Weak cry
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