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Salmonella

Causes And Symptoms

Salmonella food poisoning occurs most commonly when people eat undercooked chicken or eggs, or sauces, salad dressings, or desserts containing raw eggs. The bacteria can also be spread if raw chicken, for example, contaminates a cutting board or a cook's hands, and is then spread to some other food which isn't cooked. Cases of Salmonella infections in children have been traced to the children handling a pet (such as a turtle or an iguana) and then eating without first washing their hands. An individual who has had Salmonella food poisoning will continue to pass the bacteria into their feces for several weeks after the initial illness. Poor handwashing can allow others to become infected.

Symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning generally occur about 12-72 hours after the bacteria is acquired. Half of all patients experience fever; other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping and pain. The stools are usually quite liquid, but rarely contain mucus or blood. Diarrhea usually lasts about four days. The entire illness usually resolves itself within about a week.

While serious complications of Salmonella food poisoning are rare, individuals with other medical illnesses are at higher risk. Complications occur when the Salmonella bacteria make their way into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can invade any organ system, causing disease. Infections which can be caused by Salmonella include:

  • bone infections (osteomyelitis)
  • joint infections (arthritis)
  • infections of the sac containing the heart (pericarditis)
  • infections of the tissues which cover the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
  • liver infections (hepatitis)
  • lung infections (pneumonia)
  • infections of aneurysms (aneurysms are abnormal outpouchings which occur in weakened areas of blood vessel walls )
  • infections in the center of already-existing tumors or cysts

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