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Incubation Period for Food Poisoning

Incubation Period for Food Poisoning

After eating contaminated food, it takes some time before the symptoms of food poisoning start to appear. The time period between infection and showing up of symptoms is known as incubation period. To know more about incubation period for food poisoning, read on...
Rahul Pandita
Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. In most of the cases, the food is contaminated by bacteria and viruses or the food is cooked at the wrong temperatures. Although food poisoning is generally thought of as a mild illness, there are cases when it can develop into serious conditions. The Food Standard Agency (FSA) has reported that around 900,000 people fall sick due to food poisoning every year. The incubation period depends on the organism that has caused food poisoning. Let us take a look at some of the common organisms that cause food poisoning.
Organisms that Causing Food Poisoning
Salmonella
Salmonella is a group of rod-shaped bacteria, which is mostly found in poultry, especially chicken and eggs. The bacteria can multiply in unhygienic conditions and wet conditions. These bacteria are destroyed when the food is cooked at temperatures more than 66 degree Celsius, but if the food is not cooked properly, contamination occurs. The incubation period due to salmonella is between 6-36 hours.
Clostridium botulinum
These bacteria are present in packed foods and can lead to life-threatening conditions, if not treated properly. These bacteria, when consumed release toxins in the nerves which affect the functioning of muscles. If left untreated for a long time, it can cause paralysis and respiratory diseases. The incubation period due to botulinum is around 18-36 hours, but in rare cases, symptoms can occur within the first 4 hours.
Staphylococcus aureus
Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for various diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis. These bacteria are present on the skin of humans, mostly around the nose, mouth and throat. Incubation period lasts between 2-6 hours.
Clostridium Perfringens
This bacteria is found in the intestinal tract of humans, infected soil and feces. One of the main reasons for food poisoning due to this bacteria is because this bacteria doesn't destroy even at high temperatures and the bacteria may even multiply at high temperatures.The incubation period is between 8-22 hours after consuming contaminated food.
Escherichia Coli
Escherichia coli (E. Coli) is present in the lower intestines of the warm-blooded animals. It is harmful to the gastrointestinal tract in the human body and it produces a toxin Shiga which causes serious infection. It is transmitted to human body by an infected person or by eating undercooked meat and unwashed vegetables etc. The incubation period in case of an infection by E. Coli is around 12-72 hours.
These were some of the common organisms that cause food poisoning in the human body. Some other pathogens and their incubation periods are mentioned below.

Bacteria Incubation period
Bacillus cereus 1-16 hours
Campylybacter jejuni 3-5 days
Vibrio parahaemolyticus 2-48 hours
Yersinia enterocolitica 24-36 hours
Aeromonas hydrophilia 2-48 hours
Food Poisoning FAQs
1. Are some foods more likely to be contaminated than others?
Foods which are high in protein are more prone to be contaminated. Another reason for high contamination levels of protein foods is that these foods have high moisture content which provides the ideal conditions for multiplication of bacteria.
2. What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
The symptoms of food poisoning are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion and stomach cramps. The symptoms depend on the type of bacteria that cause the infection. It is very important to get yourself checked as there are certain bacteria that have incubation periods as long as 3-4 days.
3. What is the difference between food poisoning caused by bacteria and viruses?
There is no difference as such to the food poisoning caused by bacteria and viruses. The symptoms of infection due to these organism are similar, but the major difference is that bacteria cause food poisoning when a person consumes food contaminated by them, whereas viruses spread mostly from person to person.
4. If I suspect that I have eaten contaminated food, how do I report my case?
Most of the food poisoning cases go unreported as the symptoms can be easily mistaken for common flu. These can cause severe complications if left untreated. So, if you experience some symptoms, you should get yourself checked by a doctor who will diagnose the illness.
This was some information on illness caused due to eating contaminated food. Most of these diseases can be easily avoided if we follow some simple steps like practicing safe food handling while preparing meals and washing your hands properly before eating. In the end, we hope that this article would have helped you with information about the incubation period for food poisoning.