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Salmonella Infections

What are salmonella infections?

Salmonella is caused by the bacteria salmonella. Salmonella is a group of bacteria that can cause diarrhea in humans. There are many different kinds of salmonella bacteria.

What causes salmonella infections?

Salmonella infection is caused by a group of salmonella bacteria called Salmonella. The bacteria are passed from feces of people or animals to other people or animals. Contaminated foods are often animal in origin. They include beef, poultry, seafood, milk, or eggs. However, all foods, including some unwashed fruits and vegetables can become contaminated.

Salmonella typhi is the one type of salmonella that lives only in humans. It is passed only from human to human through contaminated food or water. It tends to cause a serious and life-threatening infection called typhoid fever. Treatment often needs antibiotics. A small number of people who are treated may feel better after treatment, but will continue to carry the organism and pass it through their feces to others through contaminated food or water.

Who is at risk for salmonella infections?

Certain factors can increase your risk for getting salmonella. These factors include:

  • Eating raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, and beef, or unwashed fresh fruits and vegetables, including raw alfalfa sprouts
  • Handling animals or pets, such as turtles, snakes, and lizards

What are the symptoms of salmonella infections?

The following are the most common symptoms of salmonella. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms develop 12 to 72 hours after infection and may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting

The symptoms of salmonella infections may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How are salmonella infections diagnosed?

Since many different illnesses have symptoms similar to salmonella, diagnosis depends on lab tests that identify salmonella in your stool.

How are salmonella infections treated?

Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:

  • How old you are
  • Your overall health and past health
  • How sick you are
  • How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

These infections generally run their course in 4 to 7 days. Often no treatment is needed. However, if you have severe diarrhea, you may need rehydration with intravenous (IV) fluids. If the infection spreads from the intestines to the blood stream, prompt treatment with antibiotics will be necessary.

What are the complications of salmonella infections?

Most people recover completely from a salmonella infection. Some people may develop a condition called reactive arthritis also known as Reiter’s syndrome weeks or even months later. This causes joint pain, eye irritation, and painful urination.

Can salmonella infections be prevented?

Since foods of animal origin pose the greatest threat of salmonella contamination, do not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, seafood, or meats. Remember that some sauces and desserts use raw eggs in their preparation, so be cautious of these, particularly in foreign countries. Also, follow these recommendations by the CDC:

  • Make sure all poultry, meats, seafood, and eggs, are well-cooked. Cook food containing any of these ingredients to an internal temperature of 165° F (73.8° C).
  • Do not consume raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products.
  • Do not consume raw or undercooked eggs. Discard cracked eggs. Keep eggs refrigerated.
  • Thoroughly wash produce before eating it.
  • Avoid cross-contamination of foods. Keep uncooked meats separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Thoroughly wash all utensils, including cutting boards, knives, and counters, after handling uncooked foods.
  • Thoroughly wash hands before handling foods and between handling different food items.
  • Thoroughly wash hands after contact with feces.
  • Thoroughly wash hands after handling any reptiles or birds, since reptiles and birds are particularly likely to carry salmonella.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

If your symptoms get worse or you get new symptoms, let your healthcare provider know. If your diarrhea continues more than a few days or gets worse, you may get dehydrated and need IV fluids.

Key points about salmonella infections

  • Salmonella infections are diarrheal infections caused by the bacteria salmonella.
  • Symptoms of a salmonella infection may include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection chills, headache, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Treatment may not be necessary unless dehydration happens or the infection spreads to the blood stream.
  • Prevention includes cooking foods properly, avoiding raw milk and eggs, washing food, utensils, hands, and kitchen surfaces properly.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
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