Salmonella is a Bacteria – Here is What Consumers Need to Know
Salmonella is a foodborne illness that can be contracted by consuming contaminated drink or food such as unpasteurized dairy, raw meats, or fresh fruits and vegetables. According to the CDC, Salmonella causes approximately 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the United States every year. Although it is quite common, most people are unaware that there are different types of Salmonella, called “serotypes”. There are actually hundreds of different serotypes of Salmonella, although scientists have only identified “less than 100”, that are the most common in human illness.
How is Salmonellosis Contracted?
People become infected with Salmonella by consuming either food or water that is contaminated with the bacteria. The foods that are seen to be most commonly contaminated with Salmonella are raw or undercooked meats, unwashed produce, and unpasteurized or “raw” dairy. Salmonella can also be contracted if a person is handling any of these foods and fails to either wash their hands or clean the surfaces these foods have touched, resulting in the bacteria being transferred from one surface to another. This is called cross-contamination, and is also how a majority of people become ill with Salmonella in an outbreak.
One national food poisoning lawyer, an expert in Salmonella and other food poisoning illnesses, stated:
“Most people don’t realize how important it is to wash your hands and the surfaces these products have touched. Salmonella bacteria are very resistant, and can survive in both dry and wet environments for several weeks.”
Furthermore, in order to prevent infection, it is vital to cook foods at safe, regulated temperatures, all the while keeping the kitchen space clean. It is also critical to always be on the lookout for recent recalls of potentially-contaminated products, as they could pertain to an item you have bought and stored in your fridge or pantry recently.
Symptoms And Diagnosis: Stool Tests are Highly Recommended
The most common symptoms of Salmonella include diarrhea (can be bloody), fever, and stomach cramps. Some people may even suffer from persistent nausea, vomiting, or headaches. For most, treatment from a physician is not necessary, though it is recommended. The symptoms often last for approximately a week, and then begin to go away on their own. (“Most” usual viral infections start to resolve in much less time, usually 2 or 3 days). This is the reason many food experts say “after three days, go get a stool check!” For some, hospitalization will be required (the biggest reason being dehydration). Those most likely to require hospitalization include pregnant women, the immunocompromised, young children and older adults, and those who suffer from severe pre-existing health conditions.
In order to confirm your diagnosis of Salmonella or of another food poisoning bacteria, a stool sample is required in order to confirm a diagnosis. If the presence of the Salmonella bacteria is discovered, then the diagnosis is confirmed and the health department notified. In the hopes of preventing an outbreak, the health department will usually contact the victim and go through a list of recent foods eaten. It is imperative that a victim help the Health Department, as much as possible, to prevent further illnesses.