Botulism, “a serious illness” that can be caused by eating contaminated food or beverages, has been identified in Howard County, the county health department announced Friday afternoon.

The illness, which is not contagious, is caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves, the health department said. Botulism is often associated with improperly fermented, preserved or home-canned foods.


The “possible source” of the illness is an acupuncture and herbal practice in the 3300 block of St. John’s Lane in Ellicott City, according to a preliminary investigation by the health department.

When asked for the name of the business, Lisa Hernández, a health department spokeswoman, said, “Until we are able to confirm the actual source that caused the case of botulism, we are unable to confirm the business. Once the source is identified, we hope to provide additional information.”

The suspect in a killing in Ellicott City Saturday brought a revolver to a church where he and two others had driven to smoke marijuana, police say.

The health department is strongly recommending anyone who purchased food, tea or other products from the practice that can be put on the body or consumed to discard the items immediately.

Initial symptoms can include nausea, vomiting and muscle weakness of the face, eyes, mouth and throat. Botulism can also spread to a person’s neck, arms, torso and legs, “which can lead to difficulty breathing and even death,” the health department said.

If symptoms are displayed, “it is essential to seek emergency medical attention immediately,” the health department said.

Questions can be directed to the health department between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 410-313-1412.