Salmonella is one of the more common forms of food poisoning bacteria. While there are over 2,500 strains of Salmonella, less than 100 will make a person sick. The bacterium occurs most frequently in chicken, ground beef, and turkey. Salmonella Enteritidis is the strain most commonly associated with illness in humans. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that Salmonella will sicken 1.25 million people every year. 26,500 of those will end up in the hospital, and 420 will die.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection usually begin 6 hours to 6 days after eating contaminated food and usually last 4 to 7 days. They include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Some people will also experience nausea, vomiting, and a headache. Salmonella infection is diagnosed by a lab test for the bacteria in a person’s stool, body tissue, or other body fluids. Most people will recover without ever seeing a doctor. However, if you have a fever higher than 102 degrees, or diarrhea for more than 3 days you should see a doctor for treatment to prevent any dehydration.
While long term effects are rare, some people may take months to have normal bowel movements after being infected. Salmonella is also known to cause reactive arthritis after the infection is gone. This condition can last for months or even years.
Salmonella infection is easily prevented. Wash your hands after coming into contact with any animal, using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or cleaning up after someone who has diarrhea. Keep your refrigerator below 40 degrees and refrigerate or freeze all perishable food. Always refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of preparation. Cook foods to proper temperatures to kill any bacteria, and use a food thermometer to make sure the food is safe. And always wash fruits and vegetables under running water before you eat them.