Salmonella Infection (Poisoning)
What is it? Salmonella infection (salmonellosis) is a common bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract. Salmonella bacteria typically live in animal and human intestines and are shed through feces. Humans become infected most frequently through contaminated water or food.
Causes? Most people are infected with salmonella by eating foods that have been contaminated by feces. Many foods become contaminated when prepared by people who don’t wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing a diaper. Infection also can occur if you touch something that is contaminated, including pets, especially birds and reptiles, and then put your fingers in your mouth.
Commonly infected foods: raw meats and seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, raw eggs and spice.
Symptoms: Commonly develop within eight to 72 hours after encountering the contaminated element. Most healthy people recover within a few days without specific treatment. In some cases, the diarrhea associated with salmonella infection can be so dehydrating as to require prompt medical attention. Life-threatening complications also may develop if the infection spreads beyond your intestines. Common symptoms can include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Blood in the stool
Increases Complications – Your body has many natural defenses against salmonella infection. For example, strong stomach acid can kill many types of salmonella bacteria. But some medical problems or medications can short-circuit these natural defenses. Examples include:
- Antacids. Lowering your stomach’s acidity allows more salmonella bacteria to survive.
- Inflammatory bowel disease. This disorder damages the lining of your intestines, which makes it easier for salmonella bacteria to take hold.
- Recent use of antibiotics. This can reduce the number of “good” bacteria in your intestines, which may impair your ability to fight off a salmonella infection.
Complications: Salmonella infection usually isn’t life-threatening. However, in certain people — especially infants and young children, older adults, transplant recipients, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems — the development of complications can be dangerous.
Dehydration – If you can’t drink enough to replace the fluid you’re losing from persistent diarrhea, you may become dehydrated. Warning signs include: Decreased urine output, dry mouth and tongue, sunken eyes, reduced production of tears.
Bacteremia – If salmonella infection enters your bloodstream (bacteremia), it can infect tissues in your body, including: The tissues surrounding your brain and spinal cord (meningitis), the lining of your heart or valves, (endocarditis), your bones or bone marrow (osteomyelitis), the lining of blood vessels, especially if you’ve had a vascular graft.
Reactive Arthritis – People who have had salmonella are at higher risk of developing reactive arthritis. Also known as Reiter’s syndrome. Symptoms can include: Eye irritation, painful urination, painful joints.
Prevention: Preventive methods are especially important when preparing food or providing care for infants, older adults and people with weakened immune systems. Be sure to cook food thoroughly and refrigerate or freeze food promptly.
- Wash your hands – Washing your hands thoroughly can help prevent the transfer of salmonella bacteria to your mouth or to any food you’re preparing. It is especially important to wash your hands after you: Use the toilet, change a diaper, handle raw meat or poultry, clean up pet feces, touch reptiles or birds
- Keep things separate – Store raw meat, poultry and seafood away from other foods in your refrigerator, have two cutting boards in your kitchen — one for raw meat and the other for fruits and vegetables, never place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat.
- Avoid eating – Cookie dough, homemade ice cream and eggnog that contain raw eggs. If you must consume raw eggs, make sure they’ve been pasteurized.