Family of infant battling botulism offers warning

The family of a seven-week-old baby stricken with a rare disease is seeking support from the community.
Lincoln James Schafer, son of Hays County Deputy Sheriff Anthony Shafer, has been in Dell Children’s Hospital since Oct. 26, his grandmother Jeanne Ybarra of Wimberley told the Hays Free Press. He has been diagnosed with infant botulism and has received the only existing anti-toxin, though he has been put back on a ventilator because he is still unable to breath on his own.

Ybarra said the family lives in rural Caldwell County and suspect the airborne infection came from a nearby hay field.
“It had been so dusty and so dry,” she said. “When the hay field was plowed, they opened windows to let in fresh air … we know he breathed in a spore of the botulism.”

Ybarra said it was less than 48 hours later when the baby’s mother Amanda – who is a pediatric nurse with Corridor Pediatrics in San Marcos – was unable to breastfeed him. On the advice of a physician, the baby was rushed to Dell Children’s. “If she hadn’t picked up on the signs … if they had not taken him to the hospital he would have died at home.”

Ybarra said her grandson had begun to be paralyzed. “He couldn’t move his head, arms or legs. He became limp.” Less than 72 hours after arriving at the hospital, she said Lincoln’s diaphragm failed and a portion of his right lung collapsed. He briefly showed improvement and was wiggling his fingers and toes, however “he was struggling to breathe” when the lung collapsed and was put back on the ventilator.
Ybarra said testing pointed to infant botulism, and the family learned that the only anti-toxin comes from California. The Centers for Disease Control had to sign off on it before the serum could be flown from Los Angeles to Austin. It was administered on Oct. 28.
“It’s a waiting game now for him to start responding,” she said.

“We need prayers for Lincoln, we need support for the family,” she said. Ybarra launched a Facebook page and has started a Gofundme account entitled “Support for Lincoln’s family,” that she said has been circulated within the HCSO as well as by some Hays County judges.
The disease is so rare, she said, that only 26 cases have occurred within the past 5 years. “The serum has only been available since 2014,” she said. “To test it, they grow the culture and inject it into a mouse. If the mouse dies it’s positive — that’s how barbaric and bizarre it is.”
According to the CDC the disease exists in many forms including infant botulism and is spread primarily through food. Honey can be a source, but Ybarra said the baby had not been given honey.

In adults, the symptoms are much less severe, often involving only an upset stomach.
“It’s rare, but we wanted to let other parents know,” she said.

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