A woman has died and several others have fallen seriously ill with botulism after consuming sardines at a popular wine bar in France's southwestern city of Bordeaux.

The country's health authorities said the affected people had all dined at the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar, an organic wine bar in central Bordeaux that is frequented by foreign tourists, last week.

The woman, a Paris resident, died after she returned home from a trip to Bordeaux. The woman and her partner were admitted to a hospital in the region. Eight others were admitted to a Bordeaux hospital, with the majority of them requiring respiratory support. One person was receiving intensive care at a hospital in Spain.

French health authorities confirmed that botulism, an extremely rare, yet potentially life-threatening disease, was the cause. They added that it spread from the wine bar's homemade, oil-based sardine preserves.

Though the identities of the victims were not revealed, authorities said most of them were from other countries, including the United States, Germany, Canada and Ireland, and that they were in the 30 to 40 age range.

Officials also warned more cases may emerge. People who dined at the wine bar between Sept. 4 and 10 should immediately seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms.

France records an average of 20 to 30 cases of botulism per year.

What is botulism?

It is a relatively rare, potentially fatal illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body's nerves. Botulism can lead to difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis and even death. Food-borne botulism is usually caused by ingestion of potent neurotoxins, known as botulinum toxins, which are formed in contaminated foods. There is no person-to-person transmission of botulism.

Symptoms of botulism

According to the World Health Organization, botulism causes weakness of the muscles that control the eyes, face, mouth and throat. Early symptoms of the rare disease include fatigue, weakness and vertigo, followed by blurred vision, dryness in the mouth and difficulty in swallowing or speaking.

Treatment options

Doctors usually administer a drug called antitoxin, which prevents the toxins from causing further harm. However, it does not aid in healing the damage that's already done to a person affected by botulism. Early administration of antitoxin is effective in reducing mortality rates. The patient will have to be hospitalized for a few weeks to several months based on the severity of the symptoms.

If one experiences breathing problems, it could even lead to respiratory failure if the toxin paralyzes the muscles involved in breathing. In such cases, the patient would require ventilator support until they can breathe on their own.

Patients with wound botulism may sometimes require surgery and antibiotics to remove the source of the bacteria.