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Salmonella Poisoning Symptoms, Causes and Information

  • Date: 2010/08/19 (Rev. 2010/09/01)
  • Disabled World
  • Synopsis : Information on Salmonella a type of food poisoning causing gastroenteritis diarrhea and other complications.

Main Document

Information on Salmonella, a type of food poisoning causing gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and other complications.

Salmonella is a type of bacteria. It is usually found in poultry, eggs, unprocessed milk and in meat and water. It may also be carried by pets like turtles and birds.

Salmonella has nothing to do with the salmon fish, Salmonella are non-spore forming, predominantly motile enterobacteria closely related to the Escherichia genus and are found worldwide in cold and warm-blooded animals (including humans), and in the environment. There are more than 2,000 varieties of salmonella bacteria, but only about a dozen of them cause illnesses in people. They cause illnesses such as typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, and the foodborne illness salmonellosis.

Salmonella infections are zoonotic and can be transferred between humans and nonhuman animals. Many infections are due to ingestion of contaminated food. The organism enters through the digestive tract and must be ingested in large numbers to cause disease in healthy adults. Gastric acidity is responsible for the destruction of the majority of ingested bacteria. The infection usually occurs as a result of massive ingestion of foods in which the bacteria are highly concentrated similarly to a culture medium. However, infants and young children are much more susceptible to infection, easily achieved by ingesting a small number of bacteria.

After a short incubation period of a few hours to one day, the germ multiplies in the intestinal lumen causing an intestinal inflammation with diarrhea that is often muco-purulent and bloody. In infants, dehydration can cause a state of severe toxicosis. The disease usually is mild. There is normally no sepsis, but it can occur exceptionally as a complication in weakened elderly patients (Hodgkin's disease, eg.). Extra-intestinal localizations are possible, especially Salmonella meningitis in children, osteitis, etc. Enteritis Salmonella (e.g., Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar enteritidis) can cause diarrhea, which usually does not require antibiotic treatment. However, in people at risk such as infants, small children, the elderly, Salmonella infections can become very serious, leading to complications. If these are not treated, HIV patients and those with suppressed immunity can become seriously ill. Children with sickle cell anemia who are infected with Salmonella may develop osteomyelitis.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning Include:

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Possible blood in the feces

Sources of Salmonella Infection Include:

  • Unclean food, particularly in institutional kitchens and restaurants
  • Un-hygienically thawed fowl (the melt-water contains many bacteria)
  • An association with reptiles (pet tortoises and snakes - primarily aquatic turtles) is well described
  • Polluted surface water and standing water (such as in shower hoses or unused water dispensers)
  • Excretions from either sick or infected but apparently clinically healthy people and animals (especially endangered are caregivers and animals)

Salmonella bacteria can survive several weeks in a dry environment and several months in water; thus, they are frequently found in polluted water, contamination from the excrement of carrier animals being particularly important. Aquatic vertebrates, notably birds and reptiles, are important vectors of salmonella. Poultry, cattle, and sheep frequently being agents of contamination, salmonella can be found in food, particularly meats and eggs. The reported incidence of Salmonella illnesses is about 14 cases per each 100,000 persons About 142,000 Americans are infected each year with Salmonella enteritidis from chicken eggs, and about 30 people die.

Cook food well to avoid salmonella poisoning

Salmonella-induced gastroenteritis is most often caused by eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or egg products. The shell of the egg may be contaminated by feces or environment, or its interior (yolk) may be contaminated in utero. The only effective way to kill salmonella bacteria is with heat. For this reason it is essential to cook food thoroughly.

  • Poultry must always be thoroughly cooked or boiled.
  • Minced meat must always be thoroughly cooked or boiled.
  • Never crack a raw egg on a bowl containing other foods - use a knife to crack the shell.
  • In most eggs, the salmonella bacteria exist only on the shell. Eggs should be scalded in boiling water for five seconds before use.


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