CALABASAS (CBSLA) — Local health officials tried to calm parents Wednesday after two families claimed their babies contracted botulism in a Calabasas park.
Health officials said Grape Arbor Park is no more dangerous than any place where babies come into contact with dirt.
Whether it was coincidence or out of concern, the park in Calabasas was empty all Wednesday afternoon.
The city confirmed it has received two separate claims that babies contracted infant botulism at the park in the fall after the soil was disturbed at a nearby freeway construction site along the 101 Freeway and Lost Hills Road.
City officials said there was no need to panic, and that it was working with the county health department to prevent future cases.
Infant Botulism is a serious but extremely rare disease, caused by babies ingesting botulism spores – most commonly from dirt or dust.
“They get into the babies intestines and release the toxins, and it can cause serious paralysis. Everything gets weak, floppy. They can’t eat. They can’t breathe, and that’s when they potentially can die,” said pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altmann.
She said she has received phone calls from worried parents, wondering if the park was safe.
At least one local coach has cancelled baseball practice at the park.
Botulism is treatable and typically affects babies between the ages of 3 and 8 months.
Health officials said it would be impossible to pinpoint where a child contracted infant botulism.
At this time, city officials said they believed the park was safe for all ages.
“Based on the information that we have available, I do not see any concerns or risks in Calabasas for kids playing in the park, playing in the dirt,” Altmann agreed.
But she cautioned that “if you do notice that your child isn’t acting well – if they seem lethargic, if they’re having trouble swallowing. Anything that concerns you, call your pediatrician and have them evaluated.”
Health officials said botulism is rare. There were only 18 confirmed cases last year in Los Angeles County.
And there was only one case in Calabasas, despite the fact that there were two reports in the city.
They said the second claim was a bit of a mystery at this point.