NorCal Teen Hospitalized With Botulism After Eating Gas Station Nacho Cheese Linked to Outbreak

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A Northern California teenager is the youngest person to be hospitalized in connection to a deadly outbreak of botulism linked to a gas station near Sacramento.

Johnny Villasenor, a 16-year-old sophomore at Delta High School in Clarksburg, is recovering at Oakland Children's Hospital. He's been ill for more than a month, according to KTLA sister station KTXL in Sacramento.

"We're wishing him to get better and come back to us real quickly," said Delta High Principal Laura Uslan.

Johnny is the youngest among those hospitalized with botulism after eating nacho cheese from a gas station in Walnut Grove.

"He was just doing what a normal kid does, go to the gas station, get a snack. He's a growing boy," Uslan told KTXL.

Uslan said she visited Johnny at the hospital.

"He was able to squeeze my hand, yes and no. And was able to carry on a conversation with him that way," she said.

Johnny is making progress since his hospitalization, according to KTXL. He was taken off a ventilator and moved from the ICU into a regular room.

"It's been a real worry for all of us. He's been very, very ill for over a month," Uslan said.

The California Department of Public Health released a statement claiming that the cheese sauce tested positive for botulism. But the attorney representing the teen and other victims said the contamination isn't a result of the production of the cheese, rather the storage and dispensing of it at the Valley Oak Food and Fuel Station.

The outbreak has been linked to the death of one man, 37-year-old Martin Galindo-Larios Jr., and the illnesses of at least nine others.

The CDPH said it doesn't believe there is any continued threat to the public because the contaminated sauce was removed from sale on May 5.

Botulism is a rare illness caused by nerve toxins released by a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can include blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech and paralysis, among others. Some cases can be fatal.

Back at Delta High, students, teachers and Uslan are hoping Johnny continues to get better, but they know the road to recovery will be tough.

"People have been talking, students have been talking and praying, and I saw them in the hall writing cards to him today," Uslan said.

"There's just a lot of people he's connected with already as a first-year student with us that are worried about him, sending a lot of prayer and love," she said.

CNN contributed to this story. 

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