Health Library

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 chance of 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
  • 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

Salmonellosis may cause:

  • 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 salmonellosis:

  • 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.

Resources

Partnership for Food Safety Education
http://www.fightbac.org

US Food and Drug Administration
http://www.fda.gov

Canadian Resources

Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education
http://www.canfightbac.org

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

References

Benenson A. Salmonellosis. Control of Communicable Diseases Manual. American Public Health Association. 1996:410-414.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Use of a self-assessment questionnaire for food safety education in the home kitchen—Los Angeles County, California, 2006-2008. MMWR. 2010;59(34):1098-101.

Edwards BH. Salmonella and shigella species. Clin Lab Med. 1999;19(3):469-487.

Heymann D. Salmonellosis. In: American Public Health Association. Control of Communicable Diseases Manual. 2004;469-473.

Koningstein M, Simonsen J, Helms M, Molbak K. The interaction between prior antimicrobial drug exposure and resistance in human Salmonella infections. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2010;65(8):1819-1825.

Salmonellosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella. Updated June 27, 2013. Accessed June 19, 2014.

Nontyphoidal salmonellosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 16, 2014. Accessed June 19, 2014.