Salmonella Food Poisoning (Salmonellosis) (cont.)

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What causes Salmonella food poisoning?

Poultry, beef, milk, and eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria, since the bacteria live in the intestines of humans and animals. Thorough cooking of these foods destroys the bacteria.

Foods, including vegetables and fruits, may also be contaminated during handling or processing of the food. For example, food may be contaminated by the feces of infected people or animals or from the unwashed hands of a person handling or preparing the food.

Small rodents such as hamsters, as well as baby chicks and ducklings, may also carry the bacteria, and contamination of food after handling these animals may also result in salmonellosis. Reptiles may also harbor Salmonella bacteria. In the 1970s, outbreaks were associated with baby turtles kept as pets. Further, the infection may be spread by contaminated surfaces (such as cutting boards) that have had contact with contaminated foods.

Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal. Over the past years, outbreaks of salmonellosis have been associated with a number of different foods, including chicken, cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts, ground beef, mangoes, peanut butter, and cantaloupe. These are just a few examples.

What are risk factors for Salmonella food poisoning?

Since foods that are contaminated with Salmonella are not obvious, anyone may consume contaminated foods. Owning pets such as small rodents, chicks, ducklings, turtles, and some birds may increase the risk of coming in contact with Salmonella bacteria. People who are exposed to many people, such as those living in group housing, may have an increased risk. Children under 5 years of age have the highest reported incidence of infection.

People with medical conditions that lead to immune suppression are at risk for a more severe illness when they do become infected.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/7/2014

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