Salmonellosis is caused by a number of Salmonella bacteria. According to the World Health Organization, more than 2,500 types of Salmonella bacteria exist, but the most common are Salmonella typhimurium and Salmonella enteritidis.
Salmonella bacteria are transmitted through contaminated food products, such as raw or undercooked poultry, raw eggs, raw or undercooked beef, and unpasteurized milk. They can also be found on unwashed fruit or in food that is prepared on surfaces that were in contact with raw foods and not properly washed. Reptiles are prone to carrying certain Salmonella bacteria, so you might get infected if you have a pet snake or turtle.
Salmonellosis Infection Information
The CDC receives about 40,000 reports of salmonellosis a year, but because most people don't go to the hospital or report their illness, the organization estimates about 1.4 million people are actually infected annually. Salmonellosis affects the intestinal tract and causes nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, abdominal cramps, and headache.
Most people with salmonellosis feel better in four to seven days without treatment, although severe diarrhea can require hospitalization for rehydration therapy. In rare cases, Salmonella bacteria can travel from the intestines to other organs in the body via the bloodstream, which could lead to death if left untreated. But even in those severe cases, treatment with antibiotics will lead to a complete recovery.
A small number of people with salmonellosis will develop a condition called Reiter's syndrome, a type of reactive arthritis that can cause painful joints, eye irritation, and painful urination. Reiter's syndrome symptoms can last for months or years and can lead to chronic arthritis.
Who's at Risk for Salmonellosis?
Anyone can get salmonellosis, but infants, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems or chronic conditions such as AIDS are most vulnerable to severe cases.
Defensive Measures Against Salmonellosis
It is easy to avoid meeting a Salmonella bacterium; you just need to follow some commonsense precautions:
- Resist raw foods. You wouldn't munch on a raw chicken leg, but how often do you lick the leftover brownie batter? Caesar dressing, hollandaise sauce, cookie dough, and homemade mayonnaise all contain raw eggs and should be avoided.
- Welcome well-done meats. Although checking your meat to see if it's no longer pink in the middle seems like it should be enough to ensure doneness, it may still be hiding Salmonella bacteria. Use a meat thermometer and be sure all meat registers in the safe zone.
- Keep things cool. Refrigerate eggs, and thaw your meat in the refrigerator and keep it there until you're ready to cook it.
- Be a savvy sanitizer. Wash all surfaces and utensils that come in contact with raw meat or eggs with soap and hot water or a bleach-based household cleaner, and wash your hands immediately after handling raw foods.
- Leave the lizards (and snakes, turtles, and birds) alone. Avoid handling reptiles or birds (bird feces harbors Salmonella) or any kind of animal feces. If you do have any contact with these animals or with any other animals, thoroughly wash your hands.
- Be aware of baby. Be especially cautious in your food preparation and presentation with babies (and the elderly). Don't cut up the chicken and then feed the little one without taking the time to wash your hands thoroughly in between. Also, never let a baby, or anyone else, drink unpasteurized milk, which can transmit a host of infectious organisms.
What we generally call "stomach flu" is actually a rotovirus or norovirus infection that causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and general discomfort. Go to the next page to learn about avoiding and treating the stomach flu.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.