Salmonella Infection

What is Salmonella Infection?

Salmonella is one of the most common bacteria that can be found in food. If food is not cooked properly, salmonella can easily make it on to the dinner table. This bacterium affects the intestinal tract and makes the patient absolutely miserable.

Salmonella do not only live in human intestines. They are also found in animal intestines. Following an improper butchering process increases the risk of beat becoming infected with the bacteria, which is one of the most common sources. The second most common source is water.

People who have been exposed to the salmonella bacteria, and become infected, typically do not show any symptoms for three days. After the initial 72 hours, the symptoms begin. The length of time between exposure and the first symptoms is what makes locating the sources difficult.

Salmonella infections are well known for making patients miserable. However, for a person with a normally functioning immune system, the symptoms usually fade after a few days, even without treatment.

There are some cases of salmonella infection that do require medical attention. These cases involve severe diarrhea to the point of dehydration. Even if you feel like you have a mild case, it is important to make an urgent appointment with your doctor, or visit your local urgent care or emergency room. Not only will they be able to confirm the diagnosis, but with proper monitoring, the infection can be contained in the intestines.  If the infection does spread beyond the intestines, the situation can quickly become life-threatening.

While you do assume some risk of contracting a salmonella infection from a developed country, your chances increase dramatically if you travel to countries where food is not closely regulated, food sanitation is not closely regulated, and hygiene is lacking due to economic hardship.

What are the Symptoms of Salmonella Infection?

Salmonella infections are usually contracted by eating undercooked food. There are specific foods that are more likely to carry salmonella if they are not cooked long enough. These foods are:

  • Raw meat
  • Undercooked meat
  • Eggs
  • Egg products
  • Raw eggs
  • Certain types of prepared, bagged salads

After consuming food that is contaminated with salmonella, the incubation period is two days. Usually, by the time symptoms appear, the affected person cannot attribute it to anything specific, and automatically assumes that it is a gastrointestinal virus. Since the symptoms of salmonella infections mimic a gastrointestinal virus, doctors misdiagnose it frequently, unless a stool sample is taken. The possible symptoms of salmonella infection are:

  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Mid-grade fever
  • Sporadic chills
  • Headache that comes and goes
  • Body aches
  • Blood in fecal matter

Depending on the severity of the infection, the symptoms can last between four to seven days. Unfortunately, salmonella can build up in the bowels without creating further infection. This means that it could take up to several months before your bowels return to normal, and certain foods can cause the diarrhea to become worse from time to time.

If you feel that you have a salmonella infection, it is important that you are evaluated by your physician, or a doctor at your local urgent care. This is because there are a few strains of salmonella bacteria that cause typhoid fever.

The strains of salmonella that result in typhoid fever are typically found in developing countries. This is because they do not have the same food regulations as established countries. If you believe you were infected by salmonella while you were in a developing country, you should seek medical attention right away.

The everyday Salmonella that we find in fully developed countries is not a major concern for doctors. However, food from developing countries carrying the strains of salmonella that result in typhoid fever do not respond the same in the human body. Typhoid fever is, at times, a deadly disease. This is especially true if you are still in the developing country when your symptoms appear. Many developing countries do not have the advanced antibiotics necessary to kill the salmonella bacteria. You should be seen in a high quality medical facility as soon as possible. In order to determine what strain of salmonella you were infected with the doctor will request a stool sample for testing to ensure that you are not infected by one of these strains.

Salmonella Infection causes

Salmonella infection is caused by salmonella bacteria that live in the inner lining of the intestine or digestive system of human being, animals, and birds. It is spread through food contamination or improper handling of food where feces come into contact with food. Once it invades the body, it shows in terms of blood in the stool, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, headache, and abdominal cramps.

Direct consumption of undercooked or raw food materials may result in Salmonella bacteria spread. Foods such as beef, seafood, and poultry products may cause an infestation of the bacteria in your body. Fruits and vegetables ordinarily can also be the root of Salmonella infection if not properly washed/prepared. Poor kitchen hygiene similarly causes contamination, especially if there is a failure to wash your hands when handling food, or if storing raw food on the same shelf with cooked food.

Pets, chicks, ducklings, and reptiles carry the bacteria, which means that touching them could spread Salmonella to your food and therefore your digestive tract. Additionally, people with a medical condition that weakens the immune system are at high risk of Salmonella infection.

How is Salmonella Infection Treated?

Unless the strain of salmonella you were infected by is one that can result in typhoid fever, your doctor will let the bacterial flush itself out of your system. However, a salmonella infection can cause a great deal of vomiting and diarrhea. This can cause dehydration in a very short time. Your doctor may recommend that you receive IV fluids in the emergency room to replace the electrolytes you have lost, and also rehydrate you so that you can fight off the infection easier.

Severe cases of salmonella infection may require hospitalization. While you are in the hospital, your doctor will ensure that you receive IV fluids, and plenty of electrolytes.

Other medications your doctor may recommend are:

  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Antibiotics

Salmonella Infection prevention

Salmonella infection will rarely be acute unless to people of low immunity, infants, and the age. In other brackets, the disease disappears on their own although it’s treatable. However, there is no vaccination to this infection, but there are prevention measures one can incorporate into their lifestyle. The primary measure is in avoidance of raw or undercooked meat, poultry and its products, unpasteurized milk. For the case of fruits and vegetables, ensure food safety and hygiene before consumption.

Cross contamination caused by improper food handling should likewise be avoided. Thoroughly clean kitchen and storage surfaces. Food handlers should be trained on hygiene. Finally, avoid contact with feces, pets, and reptile to avoid bacteria transfer. If hygiene is in check even persons with low immunity stand no risk.

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Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
June 10, 2018