Salmonellosis

Definition

Salmonellosis is an infection with bacteria called salmonella. Salmonella can grow in a variety of places such as water, raw meat, seafood, certain pets, and eggs.

Causes

Salmonellosis is caused by ingestion of a strain of bacteria called salmonella. After the bacteria are ingested, within 6-48 hours they will pass through the stomach to the intestine where inflammation occurs and spreads.

Stomach and Intestines
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Risk Factors

Factors that increase your risk of getting salmonellosis include:

  • Eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, fish, or seafood
  • Eating unpasteurized dairy products
  • Eating other contaminated foods
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Handling reptiles, especially turtles
  • Taking antibiotics
  • Having a compromised immune system, such as in:
    • Elderly persons
    • Infants
    • People with HIV/AIDS
    • People with low stomach acidity, such as those who take medication that reduces stomach acid

Symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to salmonellosis. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions.

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may test your stool or blood to confirm presence of the bacteria

Treatment

Over-the-counter medications or oral rehydration solutions may be used to treat the symptoms of salmonellosis. The symptoms will usually improve on their own within 2-5 days. If symptoms are severe, talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

  • Rehydration therapy— Oral or IV fluid replacement is needed; electrolytes may also be added to the solution.
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen—Over-the-counter pain relievers may be used to reduce fever or treat headaches and other pain.
  • Antibiotics—These are required only in severe cases where blood infection may occur. Antibiotic use in non-severe cases does not improve a person's outcome. It may cause the bacteria to stay longer in your system.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting salmonellosis, take the following steps:

  • Frequently wash hands and surfaces.
  • Wash hands and cutting boards with hot soapy water before and after handling raw foods.
  • Wash utensils thoroughly after using them on raw meats, fish, or poultry.
  • Do not use the same cutting boards for raw meats and raw vegetables.
  • Do not drink unpasteurized milk.
  • Drink bottled or purified water when traveling.
  • Cook all foods to appropriate temperatures.
  • Place foods in the refrigerator promptly.
  • Wash hands after handling reptiles.
  • Certain medications, like those to reduce stomach acid, may increase your risk for salmonellosis. Talk to your doctor about this risk.

Revisions

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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