Northern California botulism outbreak: Teen struggling to recover from tainted nacho cheese

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTVU) -- A Northern California high school student has been publicly identified after he was sickened by a strain of botulism linked to nacho cheese sold at a suburban Sacramento gas station.

Jonathan Villasenor, 16, of Walnut Grove, was being treated at Children's Hospital Oakland and he has reportedly been taken off a ventilator and taken out of the Intensive Care Unit, according to FOX 40 TV in Sacramento.

"We're wishing him to get better and come back to us real quickly," Laura Uslan, principal of Delta High School, which is where the teen attends school, to the station.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with the boy's medical expenses.

Tests have confirmed the botulism toxin was present in nacho-cheese dip sold at a gas station in the Sacramento suburb of Walnut Grove, the California Department of Public Health has said.

The agency said the contamination killed one person and sickened nine others. The San Francisco County coroner's office has identified the dead man as Martin Galindo-Larios Jr., 37, of Antioch.

State regulators have said the container and cheese dip were removed from the gas station on May 5, and that authorities believe the contamination posed no further risk to the public.

Also, the botulism outbreak appears to be limited to an opened bag of the sauce. State regulators said they have found no other traces of the toxin in another unopened bag of the sauce that was seized from the fuel station.

The incident has spurred a lawsuit.

Lavinia Kelly's lawsuit claims she suffered severe and permanent injuries and alleges negligence in the manufacturing, distribution and sale of the tainted sauce.

Kelly's attorney, Bill Marler, says there are at least two more unconfirmed cases of botulism linked to the outbreak and he expects to add five more people to the lawsuit.

Marler says the contamination appears to be confined to one bag of cheese dip and that some sort of manufacturing defect enabled the botulism spore to grow inside the bag.

Kelly depends on a ventilator to breathe.

"They've been taping her eyelids open so she can see her family when they visit," Marler said.

"She knows what's going on, and she can't do anything about it. It's the most frightening thing you can imagine."

KTVU reporter Debora Villalon and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

 
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