Salmonella Food Poisoning (Salmonellosis)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

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Is Salmonella Contagious?

Many of the members of the bacterial genus Salmonella are contagious. The organisms can be transferred from person to person, by both direct (via saliva, fecal/oral spread, kissing) and indirect contact (for example, using contaminated eating utensils). In addition, a number of Salmonella species can be transmitted from animals (snakes, turtles, chickens, hamsters, cats, and dogs) to humans, usually by direct contact.

Quick GuideSalmonella Outbreak

Salmonella Outbreak

Salmonella food poisoning facts

  • Salmonella bacteria live in the intestines of humans and animals and are excreted in feces.
  • Salmonella infection occurs from consumption of raw meats and eggs, contaminated dairy foods such as unpasteurized (raw) milk, or fruits and vegetables contaminated by food handlers.
  • A Salmonella infection causes gastrointestinal symptoms, including
  • Symptoms develop within 12-72 hours and typically last four to seven days.
  • In most cases, no specific treatment is needed other than adequate hydration.
  • Most cases of salmonellosis resolve on their own without complications.
  • People at risk for complications or those with particularly severe illness may need antibiotic therapy.
  • There is no vaccine to prevent Salmonella infection.
  • Reptiles, rodents, and birds may be infected with Salmonella. Contact with these animals increases the likelihood of getting the infection.
  • Infection can be prevented by attention to hygiene during food preparation and handling of animals.

What is Salmonella food poisoning?

Salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, is sometimes referred to as Salmonella food poisoning. Salmonella are a type of bacteria that have been known to cause illness for over 125 years. The organism is named for a scientist named Daniel Elmer Salmon, who discovered the bacteria. Salmonellosis is a food-borne infection typically caused by consumption of contaminated foods. It is estimated that Salmonella causes about 1 million food-borne illnesses every year in the U.S. and about 19,000 hospitalizations.

Different types of the Salmonella bacteria can cause the illness. The two most common types in the U.S. are S. typhimurium and S. enteritidis. Specific strains of the bacteria can be responsible for outbreaks of the disease. For example, an outbreak in 2013-2014 was linked to multidrug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg. This strain and some other strains have become resistant to many drugs traditionally used to treat the infection, posing a risk to public health.

Some types of Salmonella bacteria cause typhoid fever, a serious illness that occurs most often in nonindustrialized areas of the world.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/3/2016

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