Salmonella: Signs and symptoms of infection

What is Salmonella?

With waves of products being recalled with potential salmonella contamination, many people may be wondering what salmonella is , how it is contracted and how to treat the illness.

Salmonella was discovered by Dr. Daniel Salmon and his team about 125 years ago, according to the National Institutes of Health. Salmonella is the bacteria that causes salmonellosis.

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When infected, people normally develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps that will begin between 12 and 72 hours after infection,  according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For most people who come down with the illness, it lasts four to seven days and most people don’t need to seek medical treatment, but some cases where diarrhea is too severe, people could need hospitalization.

In those extreme cases, the infection can spread from intestines to the blood stream and be spread throughout the body.

It can cause death if left untreated with antibiotics. Elderly, infants and people with compromised immune systems could be vulnerable.

The CDC says that about 1.2 million people are sickened with salmonella every year leading to 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths each year in the United States. In most cases, food is to blame for the illnesses.

Normally, when the infection is cured, patients will recover completely but it could be months until the digestive track returns to normal, the CDC says.

But some patients can have what's called reactive arthritis that can last for months or years. Reactive arthritis can lead to chronic arthritis, eye irritation or painful urination, the CDC reports.

How to prevent salmonella infections

  • Cook foods like poultry, ground beef and eggs completely.
  • Don't eat or drink foods with raw eggs or unpasteurized milk.
  • Wash hands, kitchen surfaces and utensils with soap and water after they are in contact with raw meat or poultry.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after touching reptiles, birds or baby chicks or after coming in contact with animal feces.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. Keep uncooked meats separate from cooked foods, produce and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Infected people should not prepare food or drink for others until symptoms subside.

Information compiled from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

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