Rugby fans have been urged to be on high alert after a botulism outbreak in Bordeaux, which has left one person dead and eight people seriously ill in hospital. The cases are being linked to tinned sardines served in a popular wine bar.
Late on Tuesday evening, the national French health ministry confirmed 10 cases of botulism.
In a public notice posted on their website, they said one person has died, eight people are hospitalised in Bordeaux and Ile de France (the region surrounding Paris), including seven admitted to intensive care after contracting a rare form of botulinum toxin poisoning.
The city hosted thousands of Irish fans at the weekend who travelled to see Ireland defeat Romania in their opening game of the Rugby World Cup 2023.
French local health authorities, the ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine, said the patients included people from America, Canada and Germany, who had been socialising in the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar. They said the bar is very popular with British customers.
On Wednesday, the Embassy of Ireland in Paris said it is aware of a botulism outbreak linked to a wine bar in Bordeaux.
“We advise Irish citizens who ate in Tchin Tchin Wine Bar between September 4th and 10th to immediately consult a doctor if experiencing any symptom,” a statement read.
Authorities said that the outbreak is suspected to be linked to home-preserved canned sardines served in the bar.
They urged anyone who had visited this bar to be extremely vigilant and consult with a doctor if they experience any symptoms which could indicate infection with this serious condition.
The head of the Intensive Care Unit at Bordeaux University Hospital, Benjamin Clouzeau, warned in tweets that others may have returned home without knowing that they are sick yet. He said it is important that national media take up this subject, because there is a strong risk that tourists passing through Bordeaux have returned to their region of origin and not diagnosed.
Botulism is fatal in 5% to 10% of cases, authorities warned.
Local media, the Soudest newspaper, reported many of the patents have been ventilated as they are so ill.
French health experts warned that botulism is a serious neurological condition, caused by a potent toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.
It can lead to respiratory and muscular paralysis. Initial symptoms include “fatigue, weakness and dizziness, followed by blurred vision, a sensation of dry mouth and difficulty swallowing and speaking,” France’s Institute Pasteur told Franceinfo.
They said the majority of cases in France are linked to food poisoning caused by preserved foods including cured meats, cold meats, homemade or artisan-made preserves.