( Infection; Salmonella Enterica; Food Poisoning)
Pronounced: Sal-mow-nell-uhEn Español (Spanish Version)
Salmonella is a rod-shaped bacteria that can live in a variety of conditions including in water, soil, raw meats, raw poultry, eggs, animal feces, insects, and raw seafood. Once the bacteria is ingested by a human host, within 6 to 48 hours Salmonella will pass through the stomach to the intestine where it causes inflammation and the production of toxins. The resulting condition often includes nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea , and fever. The symptoms usually last 2 to 5 days and salmonellosis often subsides on its own.
This condition can be serious in vulnerable populations, including the elderly and infants, and should be treated by a physician in those cases. Rarely, more serious complications, such as endocarditis , bacteremia, osteomyelitis , and localized infections, can occur.
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Salmonellosis is caused by ingestion of a strain of the bacteria, Salmonella , and resulting penetration of the organisms into the small intestine where inflammation occurs. The main types of Salmonella include:
- S. enteritidis
- S. typhimurium
- S. typhi
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
The following factors increase your chance of developing salmonellosis:
- Eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, fish, or seafood
- Eating unpasteurized dairy products
- Drinking contaminated water
Having a compromised immune system, such as in:
- Elderly persons
- Those living with HIV/AIDS
If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to salmonellosis. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.
- Abdominal cramps
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
Tests may include the following:
- Testing of feces or blood to confirm presence of Salmonella bacteria
Over-the-counter medications or oral rehydration solutions may be used to treat the symptoms of salmonellosis. The symptoms will usually subside on their own within 2 to 5 days. If symptoms are severe, talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
With diarrhea and vomiting, oral or intravenous replenishment of fluids is needed. Electrolytes may also be added to the solution to replace those lost.
Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen
Over-the-counter pain relievers may be used to reduce fever or treat headaches and other pain.
Antibiotics are required in severe cases or for particularly vulnerable populations.
To help reduce your chances of getting salmonellosis, take the following steps:
- Frequently wash hands and surfaces
- Wash hands and cutting boards with hot soapy water before and after handling raw foods
- Wash hands and utensils thoroughly between handling raw meats, fish, or poultry
- Do not use the same cutting boards for raw meats and raw vegetables
- Cook all foods to appropriate temperatures
- Place foods in the refrigerator promptly
Partnership for Food Safety Education
National Institutes of Health
US Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education
Public Health Agency of Canada
Benenson A. Salmonellosis . Control of Communicable Diseases Manual. American Public Health Association . 1996: 410-414.
Edwards BH: Salmonella and Shigella species. Clin Lab Med . 1999; 19(3): 469-87.
Pegues DA, Ohl ME, Miller SI. Salmonella species, including Salmonella typhi. Principles and Practices of Infectious Diseases . 6th ed. 2005; 2: 2636-54.
Last reviewed January 2008 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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