What are salmonella infections?
Salmonella is caused by the bacteria salmonella. Salmonella is a group of bacteria that can cause diarrhea in humans. There are many different kinds of salmonella bacteria.
What causes salmonella infections?
Salmonella is caused by a group of salmonella bacteria. The bacteria are passed from feces of people or animals to other people or animals. Contaminated foods are often animal in origin. They include beef, poultry, seafood, milk, or eggs. However, all foods, including some unwashed fruits and vegetables can become contaminated.
Salmonella typhi is the one type of salmonella that lives only in humans. It is passed only from human to human through contaminated food or water. It tends to cause a serious and life-threatening infection called typhoid fever. Treatment often requires antibiotics. A small number of people who are treated will continue to carry the organism and pass it through their feces to others through contaminated food or water.
Who is at risk for salmonella infections?
Certain factors can increase your risk for getting salmonella. These factors include:
- Eating raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, and beef, or unwashed fresh fruits and vegetables, including raw alfalfa sprouts
- Handling animals or pets such as turtles, snakes, and lizards
What are the symptoms of salmonella infections?
The following are the most common symptoms of salmonella. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms develop 12 to 72 hours after infection and may include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
The symptoms of salmonella infections may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
How are salmonella infections diagnosed?
Since many different illnesses have symptoms similar to salmonella, diagnosis depends on lab tests that identify salmonella in your stool.
How are salmonella infections treated?
Specific treatment for salmonella will be determined by your health care provider based on:
- Your overall health and medical history
- Extent of the disease
- Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the disease
- Your opinion or preference
These infections generally run their course in 4 to 7 days. Often no treatment is required. However, if you have severe diarrhea, you may need rehydration with intravenous (IV) fluids. If the infection spreads from the intestines to the blood stream, prompt treatment with antibiotics will be necessary.
What are the complications of salmonella infections?
Most people recover completely from a salmonella infection. Some people may develop a condition called Reiter’s syndrome, which causes joint pain, eye irritation, and painful urination.
Can salmonella infections be prevented?
Since foods of animal origin pose the greatest threat of salmonella contamination, do not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, seafood, or meats. Remember that some sauces and desserts use raw eggs in their preparation, so be cautious of these, particularly in foreign countries. Also, follow these recommendations by the CDC:
- Make sure all poultry, meats, seafood, and eggs, are well-cooked. Cook food containing any of these ingredients to an internal temperature of 165° F (73.8° C).
- Do not consume raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products.
- Do not consume raw or undercooked eggs. Discard cracked eggs. Keep eggs refrigerated.
- Thoroughly wash produce before eating it.
- Avoid cross-contamination of foods. Keep uncooked meats separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods.
- Thoroughly wash all utensils, including cutting boards, knives, and counters, after handling uncooked foods.
- Thoroughly wash hands before handling foods and between handling different food items.
- Thoroughly wash hands after contact with feces.
- Thoroughly wash hands after handling any reptiles or birds, since reptiles and birds are particularly likely to carry salmonella.
When should I call my health care provider?
If your symptoms get worse or you get new symptoms, let your health care provider know. If your diarrhea continues more than a few days or gets worse, you may get dehydrated and need IV fluids.
Key points about salmonella infections
- Salmonella infections are diarrheal infections caused by the bacteria salmonella.
- Symptoms of a salmonella infection may include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection chills, headache, nausea, or vomiting.
- Treatment may not be necessary unless dehydration or the infection spreading to the blood stream occurs.
- Prevention includes cooking foods properly, avoiding raw milk and eggs, washing food, utensils, hands, and kitchen surfaces properly.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
- At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
- Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
- newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician