Food & Drinks

Botulism from food causes the death of a respected outdoorsman from Jackson Hole

Wyoming social media reports the death of 55-year-old Hans Russell, who succumbed to botulism after being conscious but also completely paralyzed for several weeks in a Salt Lake City hospital.

Russell was a popular outdoorsman and river guide in Jackson Hole, WY. His death is blamed on a solo camping trip to Idaho where he consumed a can of soup that was not properly refrigerated. The doctors in Salt Lake City who fought to keep him alive came to believe that the single can of soup was the source of the botulism toxin Russell consumed.

Russell was well known in Jackson Hole. He was a kayaker, paraglider, rock climber, fisherman, and guide for Mad River Boat Trips and a bus driver for Lewis and Clark Expeditions. He was an expert on the whitewater areas of Wyoming and Idaho who always put safety first

He was from Pittsburg, KS, and became attached to the Yellowstone/Teton area after high school. He did return to Kansas to pick up an Arts Degree from Pittsburg State University. His friends say he was also “an amazing guitarist.”

The botulism-contaminated soup that led to Russell’s paralysis and death was said to have trapped him in his own body in that he could not move and was called a nightmare that began with a can of soup.

The outdoor enthusiast, river runner, and guide was diagnosed with Botulism A, the rare bacterial infection that undermines the body’s nerves and prevents breathing and paralysis of muscles. It left Russell unable to talk or open his eyes.

He was a Jackson Hole resident for the past 10 years. His death was first reported on the GoFundMe page that friends were using to help pay Russell’s hospital bills.

About botulism
While a variety of food poisoning can result from eating under-processed food, one of the most dangerous is botulism poisoning. Untreated, botulism can paralyze the muscles needed for breathing, resulting in sudden death.

Anyone who has eaten any recalled products and developed signs of botulism poisoning should immediately seek medical attention, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. However, symptoms can begin as soon as 6 hours after or up to 10 days later,” according to the CDC website.

The symptoms of botulism may include some or all of the following: double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, a thick-feeling tongue, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. People with botulism poisoning may not show all of these symptoms at once.

These symptoms result from muscle paralysis caused by the toxin. If untreated, the disease may progress, and symptoms may worsen to cause paralysis of specific muscles, including those used in breathing and those in the arms, legs, and the body from the neck to the pelvis area.

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