Waikato family treated for botulism after eating wild boar

Newshub has learned three people from the same family, who were suddenly struck with paralysis, are being treated for suspected botulism.

Waikato Hospital doctors have told family friends they're sure the patients are suffering from botulism, but are awaiting test results to confirm it.

Shibu Kochummen, wife Subi Babu and mother Alekutty Daniel were found unconscious by emergency staff at their Putaruru house on Friday.

Mr Kochummen had gone hunting for wild boar, and he and his family ate the animal. Within half an hour, the trio began throwing up.

Emergency services found them unconscious and rushed them to hospital, where they remain paralysed.

The suspect meat has been sent to Australia for tests, but the results are at least two weeks away.

"While we don't know the exact cause and source of this illness, we now believe it is botulism,"  a Waikato DHB spokesperson says. "The three patients are responding to botulism anti-toxin and are recovering in hospital.

"We have sent samples off to a specialist centre in Queensland for testing, but it may take several weeks before we get the results. We have no evidence to believe there is any public health issue."

Symptoms of botulism typically become apparent within 12-36 hours. However, if the toxin is particularly potent, the symptoms, which include vomiting and paralysis, could come on quicker.

"The fact that this happened so quickly suggests a toxin, and suggests something pretty potent or there in large amounts," says University of Auckland microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles.

Dr Liam Pomerleau, from the Otago University's National Poison's Centre, says botulism affects the peripheral nervous system.

"What the toxin does is it gets into the cells and blocks the transmission from nerve cells to muscle cells, and that results in a paralysis," he says.

"Once the cells have been affected by the toxin, it can take a long time for them to regenerate."

The family ate a form of pork curry and another food item - not the pork - may have caused the sickness.

"Botulism has been found associated with all types of different food sources," says Dr Pomerleau.

"It's most commonly found with things that are canned or preserved incorrectly."

The last case of botulism in New Zealand occurred in 2014, when a Wellington man was hospitalised after eating what he described as "rancid" ready-to-eat risotto. He recovered, after being treated with antitoxin.

Sojan Joseph, a family friend and member of their church, has spent the day praying for the latest victims.

He's hoping to see a recovery, although so far, the only movement they're making is involuntary and they're unable to talk.

"I can't really say that there was a huge improvement in what we've been witnessing so far," he says.

"But Shibu has got his eyes open at the moment and keeps them open all the time, and throw his legs around and things like that."

Mr Joseph says he's amazed at how many people are helping - they've received calls and Givealittle donations to help with medical costs from around the world, including from the US, Australia and the Middle East.