Salmonella is by far the most commonly reported type of food-borne illness, at least in the United States. The number of reported cases numbers in the millions each year.
Salmonella is caused by a variety of different bacteria. The ensuing illness is treatable, but in some cases, fatal. Generally, most people aren’t aware they have Salmonella, they just think something they ate didn’t agree with them and the symptoms are mild and disappear quickly.
How You Catch It
Quite often, the mishandling of food products causes Salmonella. In many cases, the bacterium is spread by animal feces coming into contact with fresh foods. In the case of eggs, the bacteria come from within the chicken and are already in the egg before it is laid.
Eggs are the most common source of Salmonella. Infections can also come from contaminated dairy products, meats, and various shellfish. Undercooked meats and poultry may contain the bacteria and, on rare occasion, fresh fruits and vegetables can also be contaminated.
Much like E. Coli, Salmonella is treatable, but can be fatal in infants and the elderly. Those with poor health due to weakened immune systems are also susceptible to advanced complications.
Symptoms can appear as soon as eight hours after ingesting contaminated food products. In some cases, it takes a few days for the symptoms to appear. The most common symptom is diarrhea. Other symptoms include fever, chills, cramping in the stomach and intestine, fatigue, and in come cases, headache.
– Use care when choosing where to purchase fresh foods. If the establishment seems dirty, chances are they don’t care for their foods very well either.
– Handle eggs with care. Wash all surfaces and utensils used with raw eggs, and wash washcloths that have been used to wipe up raw egg and fresh meats.
– Always wash fresh vegetables and fruits, even fruits with rinds you don’t intend to eat. A knife can pull bacteria through the fruit when the outside is contaminated.
– Cook all meats to the suggested cooking temperature. Proper cooking will kill most Salmonella causing bacteria.
– Avoid eating products with raw eggs, meat, or seafood.
– Pasteurized products are best. Pasteurization kills the bacterium.
– Have at least two cutting boards in your kitchen, preferably the plastic variety. Use one for meats and the other for vegetables and do not interchange them. Always clean each thoroughly with hot, soapy water after each use.
– Always wash hands after using the restroom and while handling fresh foods. Teach children to do the same.
If you suspect Salmonella, it is advised you see your doctor as soon as possible. A trip to the emergency room is a good idea. In most cases, Salmonella is easily overcome. Your body will heal on it’s own. Your doctor will determine the course of treatment you need.
Because loose stools are the most common symptom of Salmonella, you should make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids while you recover. If symptoms linger longer than a day or others appear, call your doctor for a follow up.