Science and Tech


Potentially fatal illness could be linked to fake Botox, officials say

Botulinum toxin, the main component of Botox, rarely causes sickness. But under certain conditions, it's considered one of the most lethal substances.
Syringe being filled with botulinum toxin, or Botox.
Posted at 1:45 PM, Apr 09, 2024

The state health department in Illinois has asked health care facilities to be on the lookout for patients experiencing symptoms of botulism that may be connected to counterfeit Botox injections. 

There have been two cases of individuals suffering from blurred vision, droopy face, fatigue and difficulty breathing after getting injected with Botox or a possible counterfeit version of the product, theIllinois Department of Public Health said Monday. 

Both individuals had to be hospitalized after receiving injections from a licensed nurse in LaSalle County, which is located southwest of Chicago. 

The department said the nurse was “performing work outside her authority.”

In Illinois, Botox injections are only permitted by certain licensed professionals who are regulated by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the department said. Those licensed professionals do not include cosmetologists or estheticians. 

The health department has an online license lookup tool for patients to check that the person administering injections is licensed to do so. 

“Receiving these treatments in unlicensed, unapproved settings can put you or your loved ones at serious risk for health problems,” said Illinois health department director Dr. Sameer Vohra in a press release. “If you are experiencing any health problems after a recent cosmetic treatment, please contact your healthcare provider immediately for help and assistance.”

Health care professionals in Illinois are being asked to record a thorough history of patients who recently got Botox, including the purpose for the injections, the number of doses and the name of the person who administered the injections.

Any cases that could be botulism should be reported to the local health department, the health department said. 

Botulism is an illness caused by a toxin attacking the body’s nerves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Botulinum toxin is the main component of Botox, and it rarely causes sickness. But under certain conditions, it is considered one of the most lethal toxins known, the CDC said. 

There are different kinds of botulism, but symptoms most often include difficulty swallowing or breathing, muscle weakness, double vision and drooping facial features. The CDC said the illness can cause muscle paralysis or death. 

The department is working with the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration to investigate the cases. Similar cases have been reported in Tennessee, the department said. 

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