Should you report your case of food poisoning? One in six people in the US will get sick every year from a virus or bacteria in their food according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Yet only a tiny fraction of those people will go to their doctor, or report their illness to the authorities. This makes it very difficult for the people responsible for keeping our food supply safe to do their jobs effectively. Timely reporting of suspected food born illness allows investigators to identify outbreaks, notify the public of potential dangers, and get contaminated food removed from restaurants and grocery stores. Reporting also allows state and federal food agencies determine how a food got contaminated so future outbreaks can be eliminated.
Do You Have Food Poisoning?
Getting tested by a doctor is the only way to absolutely determine that you have a food borne illness. Common symptoms of food borne diseases are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. However, symptoms may differ among the different types of food borne illnesses and people. Many viruses and bacteria can cause similar symptoms that aren’t transferred through food, so visiting your doctor is the only way to determine the exact cause. If you have bloody stool, fever, or signs of dehydration, see your doctor immediately.
Where Did I Get It?
Determining the cause of your illness is simple compared to figuring out where you got it. Most people assume that the most recent thing they ate is responsible for their symptoms, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Symptoms can occur in the first few hours with some virsus, but the average incubation period for the most common causes of food borne illness is a few days. In some cases, as with listeria, it can be weeks.
Reporting Your Illness
If you’ve been to your doctor and diagnosed with a food borne illness, they will probably it to the local health department. If you’re not sure, ask. If they are not going to report the illness, contact your state health department yourself. Even if you can’t say for sure what made you sick, report it anyway. They may be able to tell you if other people in your area have had the same illness. If you purchased the food save the container and packaging. Always keep any of the uneaten food you may have left. Label and store it so that there’s no chance it will be eaten by any one else. Freezing the food is the best way to preserve it until it can be tested.