February - Salmonella


What is Salmonella?

The Salmonella germ is a group of bacteria that can cause diarrheal illness in people. Salmonella are microscopic living creatures that pass from the feces of people or animals, to other people or other animals. There are many different kinds of Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella serotype Typhimurium and Salmonella serotype Enteritidis are the most common in the United States.


Most people who are infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.

How is it transmitted?

Each year about 40,000 cases of salmonella poisoning (salmonellosis) are reported in the U.S. Salmonella are usually transmitted by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal. Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as poultry, milk, or eggs, but all foods, including vegetables may become contaminated. Many raw foods of animal origin are frequently contaminated, but fortunately, thorough cooking kills Salmonella. Food may also become contaminated by the hands of an infected food handler who forgot to wash his or her hands with soap after using the bathroom.


There is no salmonellosis vaccine. Since foods of animal origin may be contaminated with Salmonella, you should avoid eating raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat.


Many different kinds of illnesses can cause diarrhea, fever, or abdominal cramps, so lab tests are required to diagnose salmonellosis. Once Salmonella has been identified, further testing can determine its specific type, and which antibiotics could be used to treat it.

Salmonella infections usually resolve in 5-7 days and often do not require treatment unless the patient becomes severely dehydrated or the infection spreads from the intestines. People with severe diarrhea may require rehydration, often with intravenous fluids. Antibiotics are not usually necessary unless the infection spreads from the intestines.


What to do if you think you have Salmonella poisoning:

If you think you have salmonella poisoning, contact your doctor right away. They may want to see you for testing or treatment.

Tips for Preventing Salmonella Poisoning

• Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly before eating. Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw unpasteurized milk.

• If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.

• Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.

• Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems.

• Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles or birds, or after contact with pet feces.

• Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, snakes) and infants or people with weak immune systems.

• Don't work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.

You should report cases of salmonella poisoning to the Environmental Health Department.

Contact us at (901) 222-9000.