Most people know at least a little bit about Salmonella, a type of bacteria associated with food poisoning. You occasionally hear about Salmonella outbreaks in the news, or maybe you know that Salmonella is the reason that you’re not supposed to consume raw eggs. Here are a few things that you might not know about Salmonella.
What is salmonellosis?
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that cause foodborne illness or food poisoning. Salmonellosis is the name of the infection caused by salmonella bacteria.
Salmonellosis typically occurs within 8-72 hours after contamination and may cause fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Most Salmonella infections spread through contaminated food.
It’s not just in chicken and eggs
Salmonella can contaminate many different types of foods. You may know that eggs and chicken can harbor Salmonella bacteria, but many other foods can carry the bacteria as well.
Vegetables, fruits, pork, and beef can contain Salmonella. Even processed foods such as peanut butter and frozen entrees have caused Salmonella outbreaks.
It’s not just in foods
While most Salmonella infections are caused by contaminated food, that’s not the only way that the bacteria can make people sick. Pet owners need to be mindful to prevent Salmonella infections.
Salmonella lives in the intestines of humans and animals, and leaves the body through feces. It’s possible to get the bacteria on your hands after handling pets, especially reptiles. Dog food and cat food may also contain the bacteria. Wash your hands after touching pets, their living environments, and their food.
Salmonella is more common in the summer
More people get salmonellosis in the summer than during other parts of the year. Cookouts, picnics, and barbecues often mean that food gets left out in warm temperatures, which invites foodborne illnesses.
It’s more common than you realize
The CDC estimates that Salmonella causes 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths in the U.S. each year.
Of course, it’s difficult to know exactly how many illnesses are caused by Salmonella. According to the CDC, for every confirmed laboratory test identifying salmonellosis, there are 30 more unreported cases.
Some people are at a higher risk than others
Salmonella can make anyone sick, but not everyone is affected by the bacteria equally. Young children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to the bacteria than healthy adults.
You can prevent Salmonella infections
Salmonella bacteria is killed through cooking and pasteurization. Completely cook foods, avoid unpasteurized milk, and avoid foods that contain raw eggs.
Always keep your cooking utensils and surfaces clean. Keep raw foods, cooked foods, and ready to eat foods separate.
Properly wash your hands after touching pets or going to the bathroom, and before handling food.
Most healthy people typically recover within a few days and don’t require medical treatment. If, however, you are at a higher risk – young children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems – you may need to visit a medical professional. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your symptoms.