Health & Diet

Salmonella: Causes And Treatment

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Salmonella infection, a bacterial disease, affects the intestinal tract. Salmonella bacteria normally live in human and animal intestines and are shed through feces. Usually, humans become infected through contaminated food or water. People with salmonella infection often have no symptoms. On the other hand, other develop fever, diarrhea as well as abdominal cramps within 8 to 72 hours.

In most cases, healthy people recover within several days without specific treatment. However, sometimes the diarrhea, which is associated with salmonella infection, can be so dehydrating and require medical attention. If the infection spreads beyond the intestines, life-threatening complications may develop. If you travel to countries with poor sanitation, your risk of acquiring salmonella infection is higher.

Causes

Salmonella bacteria live in the intestines of animals, birds and humans. In most cases, people are infected with salmonella infection by consuming foods which have been contaminated by feces. Foods, which are commonly infected, are:

Vegetables and fruits: Fresh produce, usually imported varieties, can be hydrated in the field or washed during processing with water contaminated with salmonella bacteria. Contamination also can happen in the kitchen, when juices from raw poultry as well as meat come into contact with foods which are uncooked, such as salads.

Raw eggs: Although an egg’s shell seems like a good barrier to contamination, some chickens, which are infected, produce eggs that contain salmonella bacteria before the shell is even formed.

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Raw seafood, poultry and meat: During the butchering process, feces may get onto raw poultry and meat. If seafood was harvested from contaminated water, it may also be contaminated.

Symptoms

Salmonella infection is often caused by eating undercooked or raw, poultry, meat, or eggs. The incubation period ranges from a few hours to two days. Majority of salmonella infections can be classified as gastroenteritis. Some of the possible signs and symptoms are blood in the stool, headache, chills, fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and nausea. Generally, symptoms of salmonella infection last 4 to 7 days, even though it can take a few months for your bowels to return to normal.

Treatments

Treatment often focuses on replacing fluids and electrolytes, since salmonella infection can be dehydrating. Severe cases of salmonella infection may require hospitalization and fluids delivered directly into a vein. In addition, your doctor also can recommend antibiotics and/or anti-diarrheals.

Antibiotics: If your doctor suspects that you are infected with salmonella bacteria, he or she may prescribe antibiotics in order to kill the bacteria. However, antibiotics aren’t of benefit in uncomplicated cases, since they may prolong the period in which you carry the bacteria and can infect others. In addition, they also can increase your risk of relapse.

Anti-diarrheals: Medications, such as lopermide (Imodium A-D) may help relieve cramping, but they may also prolong the diarrhea, which is associated with salmonella infection.

Prevention

In order to help prevent salmonella food poisoning, you should keep foods refrigerated before cooking, wash your hands thoroughly, handle food properly (cook your foods to recommended internal temperatures and also refrigerate leftovers promptly), use separate utensils for cooked and raw items, and clean counters before and after preparing high-risk foods.

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