What is Salmonella?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Salmonella infects around 1.35 million people every year. Over the course of a year, approximately 26,500 had a serious enough case they visited the hospital for Salmonella treatment. It also results in about 420 deaths each year. Most people ingest Salmonella through their food.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria best known for causing food poisoning. Salmonella outbreaks have been linked to items like cucumbers, chicken, raw tuna, and eggs over the past few years. The bacteria can also be found in various other fresh and processed foods, including:
- Chicken Nuggets
- Nut butters
Salmonella is truly dangerous because you can’t tell when food is contaminated. Food containing Salmonella typically looks and smells normal. That makes proper food preparation an essential part of preventing Salmonella infection.
Symptoms of Salmonella
Signs of infection by Salmonella can take anywhere from six hours to six days to appear after consuming contaminated food. Common symptoms of a Salmonella infection include:
A Salmonella infection can last between four to seven days. It is a good idea to contact your doctor if you:
- Have both diarrhea and a fever of 102°F or higher
- Have blood in your stool
- Have diarrhea for more than three days
- Vomit to the point where you can’t keep liquids down
- Show sign of dehydration
Causes of Salmonella
Most people with a Salmonella infection get it from eating contaminated foods. However, you can also contract Salmonella through contact with infected animals.
People are more likely to get infected by Salmonella during the summer months. The combination of hot weather and food left unrefrigerated creates ideal conditions for Salmonella to flourish. You can prevent Salmonella contamination by refrigerating or freezing any perishable foods and leftovers within two hours of setting them out, or within one hour when the temperature is 90°F or higher. Otherwise, you risk people getting sick and requiring Salmonella treatment.
Who can get Salmonella?
Salmonella poses a bigger threat to specific groups of people. Individuals who are more likely to become seriously ill from Salmonella include:
- Adults 65 and older: The immune systems of older adults might not recognize an infection from harmful germs. Half of the people in this age group who get infected by Salmonella or another foodborne illness end up in the hospital.
- Children 5 years old and younger: Because their immune systems are still developing, children in this age group may not be strong enough to effectively fight off a Salmonella infection. They are also three times as likely to be hospitalized.
- Individuals with compromised immune systems: People who have immune systems that are weakened by illnesses like diabetes, kidney disease, or chemotherapy from cancer treatment can be especially vulnerable to a Salmonella infection.
- Women who are pregnant: Women who are carrying a baby can be more vulnerable than other people to get sick from Salmonella and other germs.
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Diagnosis for Salmonella
Doctors typically take a sample of your blood or stool and send it to a laboratory for evaluation. They use the results to determine the best course of treatment. If the lab detects the presence of Salmonella, they send them back to your doctor. They also send the samples to your state’s public health laboratory to collect and store further details about the strain. The public health laboratory also reports their findings to the CDC.
Salmonella bacteria gets placed into serotypes, or categories based on the structures found on its surface. That helps scientists identify the specific characteristics of different strains. Some exist in only one kind of animal, while others can be found in diverse animals from different parts of the world. A Salmonella bacteria’s serotype can tell researchers whether it’s capable of causing severe illness.
Treatments for Salmonella
Most people recover from the bacteria without requiring additional Salmonella treatment. Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to treat more severe cases. They typically recommend that patients consume extra fluids until their diarrhea clears up.
While rare, Salmonella bacteria can make their way from the intestine into your bloodstream. That allows it to infect other parts of your body. These severe cases can result in death unless you receive prompt antibiotic treatment.
Salmonella bacteria can spread from animals to people. It can also be passed through person-to-person contact. That’s why it’s a good idea to wash your hands after having any contact with animals. You should also avoid kissing your pets, including cats, dogs, and lizards. Perform regular cleaning of your pet’s habitat, including bedding, cages, and aquariums.
You should also wash your hands thoroughly after performing tasks like changing a diaper, using the bathroom, or dealing with fecal matter in any way. Individuals infected with Salmonella should not be involved in preparing food or drinks until their diarrhea clears up.
Side effects of Salmonella treatment
Most Salmonella cases will improve on their own. However, if your doctor prescribes antibiotics to kill the bacteria that has worsened from a Salmonella infection, there are some risks involved. Antibiotics for Salmonella can prolong the time you carry the infection, meaning you could infect more people and increase your risk of relapse. Speak with your doctors about the potential risks involved with treatment.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Salmonella Symptoms.”
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Salmonella Prevention.”
FoodSafety.gov: “Salmonella and Food.”
Mayo Clinic: “Salmonella infection.”
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