Every year, about 40,000 people develop salmonellosis infection in the United States. The rate of occurrence is very high in people younger than 20 years. This HealthHearty article explores several facts about food poisoning caused by Salmonella bacteria.
Contrary to popular belief, salmonella is not one but a group of bacteria that can causes illness in humans. These bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Among the many different types, Salmonella serotype typhimurium and Salmonella serotype enteritidis are the most common in the United States.
The medical term for food poisoning caused by this bacteria is Salmonellosis or Salmonella enterocolitis. It is the condition that arises when the lining of small intestine gets infected by any of these bacteria. It is one of the most common types of food poisoning. A person can contract the infection upon consuming food or water that is contaminated with this bacteria. Food usually becomes contaminated, because of the use of unhygienic preparation conditions or equipment. They are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with feces. This may happen through the hands of an infected food handler or in food items of animal origin.
Symptoms of Salmonellosis
The symptoms may start showing themselves any time between eight hours or two days after the infection sets in. A person may start to experience mild to severe abdominal pain or cramps, following which he is likely to experience diarrhea. Most people also suffer nausea and vomiting. This is usually accompanied by chills, fever, and muscle pain. The infection usually lasts for about 5 to 7 days.
The first step of diagnosis of Salmonellosis is a physical examination. A doctor can determine the tenderness in the abdomen by applying pressure with the fingertips. Some patients also develop tiny pink spots on the skin called rose spots, which the doctor will examine. The next step in diagnosis, if required, is a stool culture test or a Febrile/cold agglutinin test.
Measures to be Taken
A person suffering from such type of food poisoning has to ensure that he does not get dehydrated. This is achieved by constantly replacing fluids and electrolytes lost due to diarrhea. While plenty of water should be consumed, it would be best if electrolyte solutions (which are available without a prescription) are consumed. Most patients feel nauseous due to the contraction of salmonella food poisoning, and thus find it extremely difficult to consume any liquids. In these cases, fluids should be given intravenous. At times, acetaminophen or ibuprofen are prescribed to treat fever and aches. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics such as ampicillin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, or ciprofloxacin, in case the symptoms are severe. However, antidiarrheal medications are not usually given because they have a tendency to prolong the infection.
If a person takes diuretics, the doctor who is treating him needs to be informed about it. The patient may be advised to stop taking them during the acute episode, if he is suffering from diarrhea. It is important to modify one’s diet, to control diarrhea, and reduce symptoms. Most patients find a lot of relief and improvement with the BRAT diet. This comprises incorporating bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast into the diet. In addition to this, it is best to avoid milk and its products. The foods of the BRAT diet have binding properties and make stools firmer. One must follow the doctor’s instructions, if their baby is sick with salmonellosis. While breastfeeding is usually continuous, the doctor may suggest an electrolyte replacement solution.
Precautions to be Taken
There are several measures a person can take to avoid such type of food poisoning. They must avoid food that is not hygienically prepared, or meats that are not well-cooked or stored. People should not consume raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat. Raw eggs are present as an ingredient in several foods such as homemade Hollandaise sauce, Caesar, and other homemade salad dressings, tiramisu, and homemade mayonnaise. All poultry and meat, including hamburgers, should be well-cooked (should not be pink in the middle). Infected people should also avoid consuming raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella.
Certain animals and birds are known to carry this disease. Thus, if you own a pet, iguana, lizards, turtles, or snakes (or any other reptile), you are at a higher risk of getting infected. Also, a weakened immune system will make you more susceptible to this kind of food poisoning. As there is no vaccine to prevent salmonellosis, it is very important to follow these preventive measures.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.