Digestive Diseases: Food Poisoning (cont.)

These symptoms, along with loss of appetite, can persist for several days.

Can Salmonella Infection Cause Serious Health Problems?

Although most people recover completely (which sometimes can take several months), salmonella infection may cause a condition known as Reiter's syndrome in a small percentage of people. Symptoms of Reiter's syndrome include joint pain, eye irritation and pain when urinating. The joint pain of Reiter's syndrome may develop into a chronic arthritis.

Salmonella infection rarely causes death, although it can occur in the very young, very old or among those who have compromised immune systems.

How Is Salmonella Infection Diagnosed and Treated?

If you think you may have been exposed to the infection, see your doctor. By testing a sample of your stool, the bacteria can be identified.

Salmonella infections usually go away in 5-7 days and often do not require treatment unless you become severely dehydrated or the infection spreads outside of the intestines. If treatment is needed, antibiotics are prescribed.

How Can I Prevent Getting Salmonella?

To prevent salmonella infection, avoid eating raw or undercooked meat or poultry products, including eggs. It is also important to avoid "cross-contamination" which can occur if food is being prepared using the same utensils, or on the same surfaces, as those used for raw or undercooked meats or poultry products.

Wash your hands frequently during and after food preparation. Those with a salmonella infection should not be involved in food preparation.

Wash your hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or after contact with pet feces. Avoid contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, and snakes) and infants or people with weakened immune systems.

What Is Shigella?

Shigella is a bacteria generally transmitted through feces. It causes dysentery, an infection of the intestines causing severe diarrhea. The disease generally occurs in tropical or temperate climates, especially under conditions of crowding, where personal hygiene is poor.

Symptoms include:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps

How Is Shigella Diagnosed and Treated?

If you think you may have been exposed to shigella, see your doctor. By testing a sample of your stool, the bacteria can be identified.

People with mild infections usually recover within a few days without special treatment. Drinking fluids to prevent dehydration is usually all that is needed. However, with severe infections, antibiotics and more aggressive treatment to prevent dehydration are often needed.

How Can Shigella Infection Be Prevented?

The shigella bacteria from stools of infected people can be passed to others if hygiene or hand-washing habits are inadequate. To help prevent transmitting the infection, you should always wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers.

What Is E. Coli?

E. coli O157:H7 is a growing cause of foodborne illness. An estimated 73,000 cases of these E. coli infections occur in the U.S. every year, according to the CDC.

Most E. coli O157:H7 infections have been associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef. Drinking unpasteurized milk and swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water can also cause infection. Bacteria from stools of infected people can be passed to others if less than adequate hygiene or hand-washing habits are present. Young children often continue to shed the organism in their feces for a week or two after their illness resolves.

Symptoms can include severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps, but sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhea, a slight fever, or no symptoms at all.

Can E. Coli Infection Cause Serious Health Problems?

Yes. In some people, particularly children under the age of 5 and the elderly, the infection can cause a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome. Hemolytic uremic syndrome causes the destruction of red blood cells and kidney failure. About 2%-7% of infections lead to this complication, according to the CDC.

How Is E. Coli Infection Diagnosed and Treated?

If you think you may have been exposed to the infection, see your doctor. By testing a sample of your stool, the bacteria can be identified. It is recommended by the CDC that all those who have sudden, bloody diarrhea get their stool tested for this type of E. coli.

Most people recover on their own within about 5-10 days.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a medical emergency and most often will be treated in an intensive care unit.

How Is E. Coli Infection Prevented?

You can prevent E. coli infection by thoroughly cooking ground beef, avoiding unpasteurized milk, and washing your hands carefully after handling meat, using the bathroom or changing diapers.

What Is Listeria Infection?

Listeria is a bacteria primarily found in soil and water. According to the CDC, vegetables can become contaminated from soil or from manure used as fertilizer. Animals carrying the bacterium can also contaminate food. Listeria has been found in many types of uncooked foods, such as meats and vegetables, as well as in processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses (such as feta and crumbled blue cheese) and cold cuts.



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