The Five Most Common Salmonella Strains
Salmonella infections (similar to e. coli infections) are caused by a group of infectious bacteria that is responsible for at least 1.2 million illnesses and about 400 deaths annually in the United States. More often than not, people associated the infectious salmonella bacteria with poultry products, but the truth is that people can be infected by contact with the bacteria through beef products, fruits and vegetables, and even contact with pets, namely turtles and hedgehogs.
There are thousands of unique strains of salmonella, though there are some that are more prevalent and cause more sicknesses than others each year. These are:
- Salmonella Enteritidis. This is the most common strain, and is the strain most often associated with poultry. It manifests in the digestive tract and ovaries of chickens and laying hens, so when eggs are laid or the chickens are slaughtered or the chicken defecate, the infectious bacteria can be transferred to the meat and eggs through the fecal matter of the chickens.
- Salmonella Typhimurium. This is the second most common strain associated with food poisoning, and is related to chicken and poultry, ground beef, and pork – but like all salmonella, can contaminate most any food product. This strain is showing recent properties that are disturbing, being particularly dangerous and hard to eliminate because it a number of its variants are resistant to antibiotics. Recent reported sources of infections from this strain include “hedge hogs, cantaloupes, peanut butter, tomatoes, and frogs”, says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Salmonella Newport. This strain is third most common in cases of food-related illness. This strain is often resistant, like typhimurium, to one or more types of antibiotic. It has been identified in recent outbreak associated with turkey and poultry products, cantaloupe, and alfalfa.
- Salmonella Javiana. This strain is the fourth most often salmonella serotype associated with sickness from food, and the sources of infection often include products not regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Reported cases have included contact with amphibians in the Southeast United States, as well as mozzarella cheese, watermelon, bass, poultry, lettuce, and tomatoes – each of which (unlike most meats) fall under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration.
- Salmonella Heidelberg. This strain is often antibiotic resistant as well, and has most often been associated with poultry and egg products, as well as cattle and livestock. In recent years, many consumers have been sickened when fed prepared chicken that was not heated to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.
Salmonella infections present symptoms that include “diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps six hours to four days after infection,” says the CDC. The sickness often passes (in healthy individuals) within a week without medical attention, but in other cases symptoms last longer and even worsen in severity. In these cases, serious medical attention should be sought, as there can be more serious complications like post-infectious IBS or Post-infectious arthritis.
The best ways to avoid salmonella infections are to practice good hand-washing before and after consuming or preparing foods (especially raw meats), avoid contact with fecal matter or preparing food where there can be contact with fecal matter, and stay up to date with food safety and outbreak news.