One woman has died and at least eight other people were in intensive care after an outbreak of botulism linked to a wine bar in Bordeaux, in southwest France.
French health officials said 12 people were diagnosed with the rare but potentially fatal illness. Most were tourists who ate at the popular Tchin Tchin Wine Bar last week. There were several nationalities among those being treated, including Americans, Canadians, Irish and Germans.
The public prosecutor in Bordeaux announced Friday that an investigation had been opened for manslaughter. The investigation will seek to determine the level of responsibility of the restaurateur. If found guilty, he faces up to five years in prison.
An autopsy was expected Friday on the 32-year-old woman who died in a hospital in the Paris region. She was admitted after feeling ill on her return from Bordeaux, where she ate at the wine bar.
Eight people were still in the hospital in Bordeaux and another was hospitalized in the Paris region. An Irishman who had been in the bar was in intensive care in a hospital in Spain.
Botulism is a serious illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body's nerves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bordeaux is a popular area with tourists and is one of the host cities for the Rugby World Cup 2023, currently underway in France. The city hosted thousands of Irish fans over the weekend who came to see Ireland defeat Romania in their opening game on Sept. 9.
It's understood a large group of Irish fans were at the bar ahead of the game. The Irish Embassy in Paris tweeted a warning to Irish fans who might have been to the wine bar while in Bordeaux.
The health authority believes it has identified the source of the toxin as sardines that the restaurateur had canned himself. Local health officials said there were enough affected sardines to potentially contaminate 25 people.
Officials have called on anyone who ate at the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar in Bordeaux between Sept. 4 and 10 to immediately see a doctor if they have any symptoms. Early symptoms include fatigue, weakness and vertigo, followed by blurred vision, a dry mouth and a difficulty in swallowing or speaking, according to the World Health Organization.
There are usually between 20 and 30 botulism cases per year in France. Antidotes for the toxin are held by the army.
Emergency room doctor Benjamin Clouzeau from the CHU Pellegrin hospital in Bordeaux told French media this outbreak was "exceptional" and very serious. He said it was vital for anyone who had been to the bar and experienced symptoms to seek medical assistance.
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