Three members of a family in New Zealand remain “unresponsive” in a hospital and could face paralysis or tremors for life after suspected food poisoning from a wild boar they shot on a hunting trip.
Subi Babu and her husband Shibu Kochummen, and his mother Alekutty Daniel were found by paramedics lying unconscious on the floor of their home after eating dinner, which included cooked meat from a boar shot by Mr. Kochummen.
Their children, aged seven and one, did not eat the meat and did not fall sick.
Joji Varghese, a family friend, said the three adults became ill within half an hour of eating the meat on Friday night and then began vomiting every 15 minutes.
Ms. Babu called emergency services and fainted through the conversation. The three were then rushed to a hospital and put on life support after suffering severe food poisoning.
“These were extremely active, full of life people and all of the sudden, nothing,” Mr. Varghese told the New Zealand Herald.
Sojan Joseph, another family friend, said he visited the three on Wednesday night and they remained “unresponsive”.
“He’s not able to talk, or even respond to any of his surroundings,” he told Radio New Zealand. “So we really don’t know what’s going on.”
Medical specialists treating the three reportedly indicated it could take up to two months for the poison to clear their bodies and that they could face long-term damage including paralysis or tremors. The couple moved from India about five years ago and Ms. Daniel was visiting.
The quick onset of the illness has prompted New Zealand’s National Poisons Centre to suggest the cause may have been botulism, a rare and potentially fatal condition caused by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria.
The bacteria are found in soils and can be ingested via food that is not properly cooked, leading to symptoms such as vomiting, weakness, and paralysis.
Dr. Adam Pomerleau, the director of the center, said that symptoms of botulism typically develop twelve hours or more after eating contaminated food but could appear quicker if the dose was “very high”.
An antitoxin exists but it would need to be given as quickly as possible.
“If it does turn out to be botulism, the faster the antitoxin is given, the better their improvement,” Dr. Pomerleau told the New Zealand Herald.
Health authorities said the cause of the illnesses was under investigation but there was not believed to be any “broader contaminated game”. The meat has been sent for testing and a toxicology report is due on Friday.
“We do not have any evidence to determine any broader contaminated game meat, or that there is a risk to public health,” Dr. Richard Vipond, from the local Waikato health authority, told NZ Newswire.
Health authorities said Mr. Kochummen and Ms. Daniel were in a stable condition while Ms. Babu is still in a critical condition in the high dependency unit at Waikato hospital, south of Auckland.
Relatives of the family are rushing from India to care for the two children, who are being looked after by a local church group.