Types of Food Poisoning: Salmonella

Salmonella is a bacterium that causes salmonellosis. Those infected with salmonella may experience the following within 12 to 72 hours from infection:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps

Salmonellosis usually lasts for 4 to 7 days, with most people recovering even without treatment. But there are those who may experience severe diarrhea to the point of being hospitalized. Such people may require antibiotic treatment in order to prevent further health problems caused by the bacteria, which goes from the intestines to the bloodstream. If no treatment is given, it may cause death. Infants and elderly are more susceptible to such an extreme and dangerous reaction to salmonella.


There are different kinds of salmonella bacteria. The most common in the US are Salmonella serotype Enteritidis and Salmonella serotype Typhimurium. It passes from the fecal matter of humans or animals on to other humans or animals. Salmonella causes diarrhea in humans.

Diagnosing Salmonellosis

Salmonellosis have symptoms that are similar to other illnesses such as fever, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps. To determine if a person has salmonella infection, there is a specific laboratory test to be performed, and laboratories may at times not perform this test without specific instruction from the doctor or healthcare provider. If a patient is positive with salmonella, more tests will be done to zero-in on the specific type in order to determine which antibiotic will be used for the treatment.

Treating Salmonellosis

In most healthy people, salmonella infection could last for 4 to 7 days and go away without treatment. Susceptible to more serious reactions are those that are dehydrated or if salmonella has spread to the intestines. A person with diarrhea should be rehydrated regularly. Some may even be rehydrated intravenously.

Some strains of salmonella have become resistant to antibiotics; and antibiotics are not used unless salmonella has spreads from the intestines.

Long-Term Consequences of Salmonellosis

Those who have had diarrhea as a result of salmonellosis can recover quickly, but sometimes it takes a few months for their regular bowel movements to return.

There are those, although rarely, who develop Reiter’s syndrome where they develop eye irritations, painful urination and joint pains. Reiter’s syndrome may last for months or even years, and could possibly lead to chronic arthritis. Treatment for chronic arthritis is not easy.

Contracting Salmonellosis

Salmonella passes from the fecal matter of humans or animals on to other humans or animals. Transmission of salmonella is usually through the ingestion of food contaminated with the bacteria. A lot of times food contaminated with salmonella do not look or smell any different from normal.

Salmonella may contaminate animal and plant products such as poultry, beef, milk, eggs and vegetables. Usually thorough cooking is enough to get rid of salmonella. Another kind of contamination happens when the food handler is infected with salmonella and failed to wash their hands properly after using the toilet.

Pet turtles and reptiles may also have salmonella, so it is very important to take the necessary precaution and wash hands after handling these creatures.

Preventing Salmonellosis

While there is no vaccine for salmonellosis, the infection can be avoided by following these tips:

  • Avoid cross-contamination of foods – Uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods. Wash hands, cutting boards, counters, knives, and other utensils thorough after handling uncooked foods. Wash your hands before and after handling any food item and between handling different food items.
  • Cook all meat and poultry well; make sure that your meat is cooked thoroughly; make sure that hamburgers are not pink in the middle.
  • Do not consume raw or unpasteurized milk, dairy products or fresh juices.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat – some people may not realize that raw eggs may be present in different foods such as hollandaise sauce, Caesar and other homemade salad dressings, tiramisu, homemade ice cream, homemade mayonnaise, cookie dough, and frostings.
  • Infected people should not prepare food or pour water for others until they are shown to no longer carry Salmonella.
  • Wash produce thoroughly before consuming.
  • Wash your hands after contact with animal feces. Wash your hands after handling reptiles and turtles. These are not appropriate pets for small children and should not be in the same house as an infant.

How common is salmonellosis?

There are an approximately 40,000 salmonellosis cases and around 600 die of the infection each year in the US. It is likely that there could be more unreported cases because they are milder and was left undiagnosed. Most cases of salmonellosis occur during warmer seasons such as in the summer. Children are more susceptible to contracting salmonellosis, and they, together with elderly and those with weak immune systems, are susceptible to having more severe reactions to the bacterial infection.

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