What is Salmonella? Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention

Salmonella is a group of bacteria that commonly causes foodborne illness. This bacterial infection is called salmonellosis (Salmonella) and can be contracted by eating certain contaminated foods, including raw poultry, eggs, beef, fruits and vegetables. Salmonella can also be contracted by handling pets, especially some birds and reptiles.

Salmonella infections are extremely common—infecting more than 1 million people in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most people infected with salmonella fully recover without treatment, but in some cases, the illness is severe enough to require hospitalization.

There are many types of Salmonella, with the CDC reporting that as many as 2,500 species are classified, but less than 100 are known to cause infection in humans. Most of these cause gastrointestinal illness, but other types, such as Salmonella typhi and Salmonella paratyphi, are less common and can cause the life-threatening illnesses typhoid and paratyphoid. Most people who contract these diseases do so while traveling abroad in areas where they are common.

Salmonella signs and symptoms


These causes a mild to severe gastrointestinal illness called gastroenteritis, also commonly known as the stomach flu. Symptoms usually begin between six hours and six days after exposure to the bacteria (although it may take several weeks for some people to develop symptoms). Common symptoms include:

  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • fever
  • Headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

If you have the following symptoms, please go to the hospital immediately:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • Persistent diarrhea that lasts for more than three days
  • blood in stool
  • Fever over 38.8 degrees
  • persistent vomiting
  • Decreased urine output and dryness in the mouth and throat (which are signs of dehydration)
  • Dizziness, especially when standing up
  • severe abdominal pain

Salmonella causes and risk factors

Salmonella lives in the intestines of humans and other animals and can be excreted in feces. The bacterial infection occurs when someone touches or eats something contaminated with feces. Some common ways people become infected with Salmonella include:

1. Consuming food or drinking water contaminated by animal feces, such as:

  • Undercooked beef, poultry, or fish (cooking destroys salmonella)
  • Raw eggs or products containing raw eggs, such as cookie dough
  • Raw or unpasteurized dairy products or dairy products, such as milk
  • Raw vegetables or fruits

2. Eating food that has been handled by food workers who have not washed their hands properly

3. Petting or handling animal feces, especially animals known to carry salmonella, such as lizards, turtles or baby birds

Anyone can get salmonella infection, but those at increased risk of serious infection include:

  • Children under 5 years old
  • Not breastfed babies
  • Adults 65 and over
  • People with weakened immune systems (such as people with HIV or sickle cell disease, cancer patients, and people taking corticosteroids)
  • People who take antacids (stomach acid can kill many types of salmonella; antacids can reduce the acidity of the stomach, allowing more bacteria to grow)
  • People taking antibiotics (these can reduce the number of “good” bacteria and make you susceptible to infections)
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, which damages the lining of your intestines and makes it easier for salmonella to grow
  • Pet owners (especially those who own birds and reptiles)

How is Salmonella diagnosed?

Because the symptoms of this is similar to those of many illnesses, doctors rely on laboratory tests to diagnose the infection. The test usually used first is to examine a person’s stool sample to look for the presence of bacteria. Human blood samples may also be collected.

Salmonella Prognosis

Most people with salmonella infection begin to feel well and fully recover within a week or so, although it may take weeks or months for their bowel function (frequency of bowel movements and consistency of stools) to return to normal.

In these severe cases, salmonella can cause death, especially if appropriate treatment is not started early.

Salmonella duration

In most cases, this is a short-lived illness that causes stomach cramps and diarrhea for a few days. Symptoms usually last four to seven days but may last for weeks.

However, in some cases, symptoms may be more severe, last longer, and may lead to hospitalization and long-term complications.

Salmonella treatment and drug options

Most cases of this get better within a week without any treatment. When you have food poisoning (salmonella or other infectious organisms), the main concern is dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Here are some suggestions for at-home treatment that doctors recommend.

1. Drink plenty of fluids, such as:

  • water
  • dilute juice
  • Sports drinks (helps replace lost electrolytes)

2. If you have trouble holding anything down, try drinking a small amount of water or sucking on ice cubes.

3. Eat saltine crackers or pretzels to help replace electrolytes (sodium is an electrolyte)

4. Eat small amounts of food throughout the day.

5. Do not take antidiarrheal medications unless advised by your doctor; these medications may prolong diarrhea caused by salmonella infection.

alternative and complementary therapies

Probiotics are a potential complementary or alternative treatment for Salmonella. These are living microorganisms, usually bacteria, that may be similar to those found in our normal gut. Research shows that some probiotics may help shorten the duration of diarrhea.

Researchers are still studying how probiotics can help treat food poisonings like this infections, so be sure to talk to your doctor before using probiotics or any other treatment for gastrointestinal problems. However, potential alternative treatments such as probiotics are even more important today, given the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella.

Salmonella prevention

  • Most salmonella infections are caused by contaminated food. The best way to reduce the risk of contracting salmonella is to follow good food safety practices and take steps to prevent food poisoning.
  • Follow the four food safety rules:
  • Clean frequently by washing hands and surfaces such as cutting boards and countertops, and rinsing fruits and vegetables under running water.
  • Separate to avoid cross-contamination, use separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, and seafood, and keep these items separate from other foods
  • Cooking Make sure food is cooked to the recommended internal temperature to kill bacteria.
  • Refrigerate Keep refrigerator temperatures at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and don’t leave perishable foods in the refrigerator for more than two hours. Defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator or microwave, as thawing foods on the counter allows bacteria to multiply quickly.
  • Also remember to wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and after handling animals.

Complications of Salmonella

This infections can cause complications if the bacteria spread from the digestive system to other parts of the body, including the blood, bones, joints, and central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

Some possible complications of salmonella include:

Dehydration People with salmonella infections are at risk of losing too much fluid through vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • decreased urine output
  • dry mouth
  • sunken eyes
  • Bacterial salmonella can leave the intestines and enter the bloodstream. If this happens, the infection may spread to other areas of the body, including:
  • Tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord (causing meningitis)
  • The lining of the heart or heart valves (causing endocarditis)
  • Bone or bone marrow (causes osteomyelitis)

Reactive arthritis (or Reiter syndrome) Salmonella infection increases the risk of developing this inflammatory disease. Symptoms often include:

  • joint pain and stiffness
  • swelling of toes and fingers
  • conjunctivitis
  • Painful urination

Research and Statistics: How many people are infected with salmonella?

Here are some numbers illustrating the widespread impact of salmonella in the United States:

It causes an estimated 1.35 million illnesses each year.

An estimated 26,500 people are hospitalized each year due to salmonella infections.

it kills approximately 420 people each year.

Blacks and Hispanics and Salmonella

Some studies suggest that people of color may have slightly higher rates of salmonella infection. The authors of an article published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reviewed data from the CDC’s Foodborne Disease Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) and found that from 1998 to 2000, this infection rates are highest among African Americans, followed by Hispanics, and then Caucasians. Data from 2008 to 2011 also shows that African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans tend to have higher rates of this infection than white people.

9 Things You have to Know About Salmonella

Here are 9 things you need to know about salmonella, from transmission and prevention to surprising complications and even some fun facts.

1. Certain foods are more common culprits in salmonella infections

While salmonella outbreaks have involved everything from sliced ​​melons to frozen shredded pistachios, the bacteria commonly infects chicken, beef, poultry, milk and egg products.

Salmonella outbreaks in poultry account for approximately 19% of salmonellosis cases, eggs account for 14.8%, and beef accounts for 7%.

Salmonella is spread by the fecal-oral route, so there must be some contact with these products, possibly through the water in which it is washed. “It could be that food workers are not washing their hands, or how they are washing their hands is causing cross-contamination.

To reduce the risk of infection, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food. Washing fresh produce with water can help remove harmful bacteria and germs, but it won’t completely remove them.

However, you should not wash poultry or meat before cooking because raw juices can splash and contaminate other foods, utensils, and surfaces. Washing your hands, keeping your kitchen clean, and avoiding reusing cutting boards can help protect you and your family from food poisoning. Cooking chicken and meat thoroughly is key to killing bacteria.

2. Salmonella can be spread from person to person—even through contact with animals

Salmonella can be spread from person to person through fecal-oral transmission. Generally, human-to-human transmission is rare. This is not airborne transmission like COVID-19. You actually have to ingest salmonella, usually from the feces of an infected animal, or if you eat something contaminated with salmonella.

However, you can also be exposed to salmonella through direct contact with certain infected animals. These incidents are associated with exposure to poultry (such as chicks and ducklings) from backyard flocks.

The CDC says: Backyard poultry can carry salmonella even if they appear healthy, clean and show no signs of disease. That’s why you should always wash your hands with soap and water immediately after coming into contact with backyard poultry, their eggs, or anything in the area where they live and roam.

3. There is more than one type of bacteria

When we say “salmonella,” we’re actually referring to many strains of bacteria. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2,500 Salmonella groups or serotypes have been identified, 100 of which are leading causes of infection in humans. The two most common types of strains that cause illness are Salmonella typhi (also called Salmonella typhi) and non-typhoid Salmonella.

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi and Salmonella enterica serovar Paratyphi. Most people contract typhoid fever after traveling abroad to areas where certain diseases are common. In addition to fever, other symptoms of typhoid and paratyphoid fever include stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, headache, loss of appetite, and weakness.

4. Pets can carry salmonella without it posing a threat to them

Pets often become infected with salmonella by eating pet food or drinking water that is contaminated with the bacteria. Salmonellosis is uncommon in dogs and cats, and pets with salmonella usually don’t show any symptoms. They can be carriers of bacteria and pass the disease on to you.

For example, dogs can spread bacteria through their feces and saliva because the bacteria live in their intestines. Cats can spread it by jumping on kitchen countertops or dining tables. People are advised to wash their hands thoroughly after picking up pet waste and cleaning crates and litter boxes. You should try to keep your pet away from areas where you usually prepare or eat food.

Dogs can also spread germs by kissing people, so help you avoid infection by washing them immediately if they lick you and keeping surfaces in your home clean. Other animals known to spread salmonella are turtles and lizards, chickens, ducks and geese, mice and rats, and farm animals such as goats, cows and pigs.

5. Salmonella infection can lead to arthritis or irritable bowel syndrome

People infected with salmonella may be at risk of developing a form of arthritis. Reactive arthritis is a painful, inflammatory joint disease that occurs due to certain bacterial infections in the genitals (such as chlamydia) or intestines (such as salmonella).

If you become infected with this bacteria, you will immediately develop reactive arthritis. Antigens in salmonella can affect your joints. But I don’t think it’s a long-term complication. Usually, the arthritis goes away once the infection clears up.

One of the more serious, long-term salmonella-related complications to be concerned about is post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can last for days, weeks or even months. Between 4% and 32% of people with post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome have recovered from illnesses caused by salmonella and other foodborne bacteria.

6. Garlic and cinnamon may help kill bacteria

Most cases of salmonella-related gastroenteritis resolve within a week without any treatment. Patients should drink plenty of fluids to help replace fluids lost through diarrhea and vomiting. In some serious cases, or if a person is at greater risk for complications, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection.

There’s some evidence that common ingredients in your kitchen pantry may help, too. The antibacterial properties of cinnamon bark essential oil can combat disease-causing strains of Salmonella typhi and Paratyphi. Separately, early research compared the antibacterial activity of several spices, including cumin, cinnamon and cloves, and found that cinnamon provided the best antibacterial defense.

Research shows that garlic’s antibacterial properties can help treat salmonellosis. Research has found that garlic-based marinades may reduce the viability of salmonella in food.

7. Age, medications, and certain conditions can increase your risk of salmonella infection.

The CDC reports that people with weakened immune systems who have diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, and HIV or AIDS are at greater risk for contracting food poisoning.

Adults 65 and older are also at higher risk for salmonellosis, as are pregnant women and children younger than 5 years old. In fact, children under 5 years old are three times more likely to be hospitalized if they become infected with salmonella. People who take certain medications, such as stomach acid reducers, are also at increased risk of infection.

8. Refrigerated eggs can reduce the chance of infection

Storing eggs on the kitchen counter is a common practice for many people.

Keeping eggs refrigerated at 4 degrees or colder can help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, including it. This also applies to dishes made with eggs, so don’t let them sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Make sure to throw away any cracked or damaged eggs from the dozen and dispose of the egg shells properly.

9. Salmonella is more common

Salmonellosis is more common during the warmer months, when temperatures rise and bacteria are more likely to grow.

To reduce risk, keep perishable foods (including dairy, eggs, meat and fresh produce) refrigerated or frozen. Don’t forget to pack leftovers in containers in the refrigerator within two hours of preparing them – one hour if the temperature outside is 32 degrees or higher.

Freezing food may prevent bacteria from multiplying but will not kill salmonella. Therefore, you still need to be careful about how you handle, prepare, and cook any food.

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