- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

MOSES LAKE, Wash. (AP) - Health officials say two deaths in Washington state this month appear to be linked to botulism - apparently from home-canned foods.

The Grant County Health District said Friday the cause of the deaths has not been confirmed. The victims were in their 80s and lived together, but health officials say the disease can affect people of any age.

Botulism is a severe, muscle-paralyzing disease. It’s caused by a toxin that’s made from bacteria that occur naturally in soil.

Home-canned foods could be contaminated without appearing abnormal. But possible signs of contamination are if the container is leaking or bulging, if it spurts liquid or foam when opened, or if food is discolored or smells bad.

Health officials say steps to prevent contamination include following hygienic canning procedures and storing food at the correct temperature.

Initial symptoms include nausea, blurred vision and difficulty swallowing.

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