Salmonella and Eggs: Ways to prevent illness and the importance of reporting illnesses.
Did you know that Salmonella is the most common type of bacterial food poisoning? It is commonly consumed through raw dairy products, meats, vegetables, and even fruits! But perhaps the most notorious conduit for Salmonella is eggs. Poultry, such as chickens, can carry Salmonella, and these bacteria can then be passed on to the eggs they lay. According to the CDC, “Salmonella can get on the shells of eggs when birds lay eggs or when the eggs touch bird droppings (poop) after being laid.” Obviously, this can be a problem if a person is collecting their own eggs directly from their back-yard or farm poultry. But in theory, eggs bought from grocery stores should be much safer as the eggs are washed before hitting the shelves.
But if your eggs are contaminated, how can illness be prevented?
When purchasing your eggs, it is essential to avoid broken or cracked eggs, and only buy them if they appear undisturbed and clean. Also, once said eggs are purchased, they should be stored properly. This means that as soon as possible they need to be refrigerated (at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder) because if they are stored at normal room temperature they become the perfect breeding ground for existing, or new, bacteria. Another option to consider when purchasing your eggs during your weekly grocery trip is pasteurized eggs. These undergo a “kill-step” that kills even small amounts of the bacteria. All pasteurized eggs, according to the CDC, go through a process in which they are subjected to high temperatures for long enough periods of time in order to eliminate any of the potential bacteria present.
But even so, it is always advised to avoid consuming products that contain uncooked eggs, such as raw cookie dough or batter or even sunny-side up eggs. While a favorite, sunny-side up eggs should NEVER be served to those with an immuno-compromised condition. Furthermore, when you are dealing with raw eggs, it is vital that you sanitize all utensils and countertops that come into contact with this product, including your hands.
What are the signs of a case of Salmonellosis, or Salmonella illness, and what to do?
Some of the most common symptoms of Salmonella include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever, and bloody stool. If someone experiences these symptoms after ingesting a product containing raw eggs, or another potentially contaminated product, it is important that they go see their local health provider immediately so they can receive treatment and can confirm their diagnosis. To confirm the diagnosis, it is highly recommended that a stool culture is performed. A positive stool culture will then be reported to the local health agency, and in most cases a case-worker will call the victim to discuss their eating habits in the last couple of weeks. During this interview, the victim will be asked questions about eggs as well.
If more than one person is infected with salmonella, and the stool culture are genetically similar, the health department might begin to investigate a potential outbreak, and in some cases, encourage a company to issue a recall of the suspected conduit – such as eggs. By seeking treatment, a victim has the opportunity to help prevent other illnesses!