Food Poisoning

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Quick GuideUncommon and Common Food-Poisoning Dangers in Pictures

Uncommon and Common Food-Poisoning Dangers in Pictures

Long incubation of 3 to 5 days

  • Hemorrhagic E. coli (mainly E. coli 0157:H7) can cause inflammation of the colon leading to bloody stools. In some children, about a week after infection, it can progress to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Elderly individuals may contract thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). Toxins from the bacteria enter the blood stream and hemolyze or destroy red blood cells. In addition, the toxins cause kidney failure and uremia, where waste products build up in the body.
  • Yersinia enterocolitica may cause inflammation of lymph nodes in the lining of the abdomen and may mimic appendicitis.

Very long incubation of up to a month


  • Giardiasis may occur after drinking water from lakes or rivers that have been contaminated by beavers, muskrats, or sheep that have been grazing. It also can be passed from person to person, for example in day care settings.
  • Amoebiasis is encountered in contaminated drinking water, usually in tropical or semitropical climates and can be passed person to person.
  • Trichinosis is due to an infection from eating undercooked pork or wild game such as bear meat. Aside from fever and gastrointestinal complaints, symptoms include muscle pain, facial swelling, and bleeding around the eyes and under the fingernails.
  • Cysticercosis is often seen in developing countries where water is contaminated with pork tapeworms and the person swallows the ova form the tapeworm. The infection can invade the brain (neurocysticercosis) causing seizures.
  • Cyclospora is a one celled parasite that infects the small intestine causing explosive, watery bowel movements. The infection is acquired from contaminated food or water and does not usually spread from person to person. Symptoms may also include headache, body aches, and malaise and can mimic a viral type infection. Without antibiotic treatment, Cyclospora infection will gradually resolve over the course of many weeks, but may come and go (relapse) over that time period.


  • Listeriosis usually occurs after foods contaminated with Listeria bacteria are ingested. These include unpasteurized, raw milk, soft cheeses, and processed meats and poultry. Vegetables and fruits may also become infected with Listeria. The bacteria may lay dormant in or on the surface of the food products for weeks.
  • Brucellosis occurs by ingesting raw or unpasteurized milk and cheese, especially goat's milk contaminated with Brucella spp



  • Toxoplasmosis is usually transmitted to humans from cat feces containing Toxoplasma parasites; most infections are asymptomatic, but people who have diminished immune systems can develop systemic disease symptoms.


  • Bovine Spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) is acquired by eating foods containing prions (transmissible agents that induce abnormal folding of brain protein) contaminating brain or spinal cord from infected cows.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/4/2016

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