Salmonellosis is an infection with a bacteria called
. Most persons infected with
develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after
infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most
persons recover without treatment. However, in some persons the
diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be
hospitalized. In these patients, the
may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to
other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated
promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with
impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe
germ is actually a group of bacteria that
can cause diarrheal illness in humans. They 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
are the most common in the United States.
has been known to cause illness for over 100
years. They were discovered by a American scientist named Salmon,
for whom they are named.
Many different kinds of illnesses can cause diarrhea, fever, or
abdominal cramps. Determining that
is the cause
of the illness depends on laboratory tests that identify
in the stools of an infected person. These tests
are sometimes not performed unless the laboratory is instructed
specifically to look for the organism. Once
been identified, further testing can determine its specific type,
and which antibiotics could be used to treat it.
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. Persons
with severe diarrhea may require rehydration, often with
intravenous fluids. Antibiotics are not usually necessary unless
the infection spreads from the intestines. Then it can be treated
with ampicillin, gentamicin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, or
ciprofloxacin. Unfortunately, some
become resistant to antibiotics, largely as a result of the use of
antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals.
Persons with diarrhea usually recover completely, although it
may be several months before their bowel habits are entirely
normal. A small number of persons who are infected with
, will go on to develop pains in their joints,
irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. This is called
. It can last for months or years, and can
lead to chronic arthritis which is difficult to treat. Antibiotic
treatment does not make a difference in whether or not the person
later develops arthritis.
live in the intestinal tracts of humans and
other animals, including birds.
transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal
usually look and smell normal.
Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef,
poultry, milk, or eggs, but all foods, including vegetables may
become contaminated. Many
raw foods of animal origin
frequently contaminated, but fortunately, thorough cooking kills
. Food may also become contaminated by the
of an infected food handler, who forgot to
wash his or her hands with soap after using the bathroom.
may also be found in the feces of some
, especially those with diarrhea, and people can become
infected if they do not wash their hands after contact with these
are particularly likely to harbor
and people should always wash their hands
immediately after handling a reptile, even if the reptile is
healthy. Adults should also be careful that children wash their
hands after handling a reptile.
There is no vaccine to prevent salmonellosis, however, the
following tips can help:
Since foods of animal origin may be contaminated with
, people should not eat raw or undercooked eggs,
poultry, or meat. Raw eggs may be unrecognized in some foods such
as homemade hollandaise sauce, caesar and other salad dressings,
tiramisu, homemade ice cream, homemade mayonnaise, cookie dough,
and frostings. Poultry and meat, including hamburgers, should be
well-cooked, not pink in the middle.
- Persons also should not consume raw or unpasteurized milk or
other dairy products.
- Produce should be thoroughly washed before consuming.
- Cross-contamination of foods should be avoided. Uncooked meats
should be keep separate from produce, cooked foods, and
ready-to-eat foods. Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives, and
other utensils should be washed thoroughly after handling uncooked
- Hands should be washed before handling any food, and between
handling different food items.
People who have salmonellosis should not prepare food or pour
water for others until they have been shown to no longer be
People should wash their hands after contact with animal feces.
Since reptiles are particularly likely to have
everyone should immediately wash their hands after handling
reptiles. Reptiles (including turtles) are not appropriate pets for
small children and should not be in the same house as an
Every year, approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are
reported in the United States. Because many milder cases are not
diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections may be
twenty or more times greater. Salmonellosis is more common in the
summer than winter. Children are the most likely to get
salmonellosis. Young children, the elderly, and the
immunocompromised are the most likely to have severe infections. It
is estimated that approximately 1,000 persons die each year with
It is important for the public health department to know about
cases of salmonellosis. It is important for clinical laboratories
to send isolates of
to the City, County, or State
Public Health Laboratories so the specific type can be determined
and compared with other
in the community. If many
cases occur at the same time, it may mean that a restaurant, food
or water supply has a problem which needs correction.
Some prevention steps occur everyday without you thinking about
it. Pasteurization of milk and treating municipal water supplies
are highly effective prevention measures that have been in place
for many years. In the 1970s, small pet turtles were a common
source of salmonellosis in the United States, and in 1975, the sale
of small turtles was halted in this country. Improvements in farm
animal hygiene, in slaughter plant practices, and in vegetable and
fruit harvesting and packing operations may help prevent
salmonellosis caused by contaminated foods. Better education of
food industry workers in basic food safety and restaurant
inspection procedures, may prevent cross-contamination and other
food handling errors that can lead to outbreaks. Wider use of
pasteurized egg in restaurants, hospitals, and nursing homes is an
important prevention measure. In the future, irradiation or other
treatments may greatly reduce contamination of raw meat.
- Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly before eating.
Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw unpasteurized
- If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a
restaurant, don't hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for
- Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and
water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or
- Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the
elderly, and the immunocompromised.
- 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
- Don't work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed,
change diaper) at the same time.
- Mother's milk is the safest food for young infants.
Breast-feeding prevents salmonellosis and many other health