A 16-year-old California high school student has been identified as one of the youngest victims in a botulism outbreak linked to nacho cheese sold at a gas station. Jonathan Villasenor had stopped at Valley Oak Food and Fuel in Walnut Grove to purchase a snack and wound up on a ventilator in Oakland Children’s Hospital on April 25.
“He was just doing what a normal kid does, go to the gas station, get a snack,” Laura Uslan, the principal at Delta High School, where Villasenor is a student, told Fox 40. “He’s a growing boy.”
Villasenor, who has since been taken off the ventilator and moved out of the hospital’s intensive care unit, is responding to questions by squeezing his hand, Uslan told Fox 40.
“It’s been a real worry for all of us. He’s been very, very ill for over a month,” Uslan said.
Villasenor is one of at least nine victims sickened in the outbreak that killed a 37-year-old father of two. Martin Galindo-Larious Jr. was taken off life support on May 18 after he had stopped at Valley Oak Food and Fuel in Walnut Grove last month. Tests by state health officials confirmed the botulism toxin in the nacho cheese, which was manufactured by Gehl Foods of Wisconsin.
Officials said the affected product was removed from the gas station on May 5.
Botulism poisoning can lead to paralysis, breathing difficulty and even death. Survivors, including victims of the latest outbreak, are forced to spend weeks or months on ventilators. Patients affected by the current outbreak are being treated with an anti-toxin from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We’re wishing him to get better and come back to us real quickly,” Uslan said of Villasenor. “People have been talking, students have been talking and praying, and I saw them in the hall writing cards to him today.”
The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover medical costs.