What Is Salmonellosis?
An infection with Salmonella bacteria usually affects the
gastrointestinal system (the stomach and intestines) in humans. In
more severe cases, Salmonella can spread to the blood, the bones,
or even to the fluid around the brain, but these types of
infection are less common.
Salmonella bacteria are often found in the feces
(poop) of some animals, particularly reptiles. Iguanas, for
example, carry Salmonella marina. People who have these animals as
pets are at more risk of getting salmonellosis because the
bacteria from a reptile's feces can get on its skin. Then, when
people handle the reptiles, they get the bacteria on their hands.
(Hand washing is a good way to reduce the risk of getting
Other strains of Salmonella can spread to people in foods that
have come into contact with infected animal feces. These exposures
happen when foods such as poultry, eggs, and beef are not cooked
enough. Fruit and vegetables can also become contaminated from
feces in the soil or water where they are grown.
What Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of salmonellosis can include diarrhea that may be bloody,
abdominal cramping and pain, and fever. These symptoms can take
anywhere from 6 to 72 hours to appear after someone ingests the
bacteria. Not everyone who swallows the bacteria will become ill.
In most people, the illness lasts 4 to 7 days once symptoms begin.
Some strains of Salmonella can cause a more serious form of the
disease known as typhoid or enteric fever. The symptoms of typhoid
fever can include a prolonged fever, abdominal pain, headache,
tiredness, a distinct rash, constipation or diarrhea, and a change
in mental state. Typhoid fever is rare in the United States, but
it can be common in developing countries.
Can You Do to Protect Yourself and Others?
Wash your hands. Good hygiene
is important if you want to reduce your risk of getting
salmonellosis and other food-borne illnesses. You can help
prevent salmonellosis by encouraging your family to wash their
hands thoroughly and frequently, particularly after going to the
bathroom and before preparing food.
Be cautious with pets,
especially reptiles. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching
them or cleaning their cages. Small children should not have
reptiles, especially turtles, as pets.
Be careful about food
preparation. Because the bacteria appear most often in animal
foods, avoid eating raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat.
Proper cooking will kill Salmonella, so poultry and meat should
be cooked to the proper temperature.
Eggs can carry Salmonella
bacteria both inside and outside the shell. Infection from
contamination outside the shell is much less common today because
egg producers follow strict procedures for cleaning and inspecting
eggs. But another form of Salmonella infection can contaminate
eggs before the shells are formed. Your best bet is to avoid
eating raw or undercooked eggs, like sunny-side up or poached eggs
with a soft center.
How Is Salmonellosis
If you think you may have salmonellosis, make an appointment to
see your doctor. Because many different illnesses can cause
similar symptoms, the doctor may send a stool (poop) sample to the
lab for testing.
If you do have salmonellosis and the infection is not severe (that
is, it has not spread beyond the gastrointestinal system), your
doctor will probably let you get better on your own.
The doctor probably will not give you antibiotics unless you have
a severe infection or you're in a high-risk group and unable to
fight off the infection. Antibiotics do not appear to benefit
healthy teens with nonsevere Salmonella — and may actually
lengthen the amount of time someone is carrying the bacteria. Some
people with salmonellosis may have to stay in the hospital to be
treated for dehydration (an abnormally low level of fluid in the
body), which can be a complication of any type of diarrhea.
A severe Salmonella infection will require further testing to
determine the specific type behind the illness and which
antibiotics can be used to treat it.
People who are infected with Salmonella may still be contagious
from several days to several weeks after they've been infected —
even if their symptoms have disappeared or they've been treated
with antibiotics. So while you recover, be sure to wash your hands
frequently and don't share your food or drinks with anyone. And if
you work in a restaurant or your work involves handling food,
check with your doctor before returning to work
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