Salmonella is bacteria that can cause a gastrointestinal infection known as salmonellosis. Usually salmonellosis is referred to as “salmonella.” This infection can occur in humans and animals. Most people infected with salmonella are ill for four to seven days. The person may be ill enough to require hospitalization. Serious complications and death are rare and are more likely in the very young, the very old, and people who have other health problems.
Symptoms of salmonella usually start from 12 to 72 hours after the bacteria has been swallowed. The symptoms include abdominal cramps, headache, fever, and severe watery diarrhea. Nausea and vomiting may also occur. People infected with salmonella can have milder or no symptoms.
People become infected with salmonella by swallowing the bacterium. This can happen from eating contaminated food that has not been completely cooked, or has been contaminated after preparation. Salmonella can also be spread from person to person when an infected individual does not thoroughly wash his or her hands after using the toilet. Health care providers and food handlers who are infected with salmonella can contaminate food during preparation, or while feeding a patient, if their hands have not been washed thoroughly.
Salmonella is commonly found in raw food products that come from animals, such as eggs, egg products, meat, meat products, unpasteurized milk, or other unpasteurized dairy products. Thorough cooking and processing effectively kills salmonella bacteria.
Salmonella organisms have been found in the stools of sick and apparently healthy people and animals. Most domestic animals, including ducks, cattle, swine, dogs, cats, pet turtles and chicks have been found to carry and transmit salmonella. The bacteria also has been found in a variety of wild animals. Thorough hand washing after contact with animals is recommended to prevent salmonella transmission. Contaminated water is also a possible source of salmonella infection.
Salmonella is usually diagnosed by a lab test called a stool culture. Your health care provider will provide the special container you need to collect a stool specimen. It usually takes several days before the test results are ready.
In general, people who are otherwise healthy recover without medical treatment. Antibiotics are sometimes needed by infants, the elderly, and people with other health problems, because they may be unable to fight off the infection by themselves. Dehydration is treated with oral or intravenous fluids. Consult your physician if you have prolonged diarrhea. Antibiotic treatment may increase the time it takes the body to clear itself of the salmonella bacteria. Even after symptoms have ended, it often takes several weeks for the bacteria to completely clear from the intestines.
To help prevent salmonella infections, always thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water before eating, before and after preparing food, and after using the toilet, changing diapers, or playing with pets. Make sure all food products from animal sources are thoroughly cooked, especially poultry and egg products. Egg yolks should be firm. Meat and poultry products should not be pink. Do not eat raw or cracked eggs, unpasteurized milk, cheese made with unpasteurized milk, or any other unpasteurized dairy products. Leftovers should be promptly refrigerated and thoroughly reheated. Avoid contaminating any food that will not be cooked with food products from animal sources. For example, wash your hands and all utensils and surfaces that have been in contact with raw poultry before you make a salad. Stuffing should never be stored in poultry