Salmonella is a kind of bacteria,
with many different types. The type responsible for most infections in humans is carried
by chickens, cows, pigs, and reptiles (such as turtles, lizards, and iguanas). Another,
rarer form — called Salmonella typhi — causes typhoid
What Is Salmonella Infection?
Salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, is a foodborne
illness caused by infection with Salmonella bacteria. Most infections spread
to people through contaminated food (usually meat, poultry, eggs, or milk).
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Salmonella Infection?
Because many different kinds of illnesses can cause these symptoms, most doctors
will take a stool
sample to make an accurate diagnosis.
Salmonella infections usually clear up without medical treatment.
How Do People Get Salmonella Infections?
Salmonella bacteria are often found in the feces (poop) of some animals,
particularly reptiles. People who have these animals as pets can get salmonellosis
if they handle the reptiles and get the bacteria on their hands.
Salmonella can spread to people in foods contaminated by infected animal feces.
This can happen when foods such as poultry, eggs, and beef are not cooked enough.
Fruit and vegetables
can also be contaminated from feces in the soil or water where they're grown.
Are Salmonella Infections Contagious?
Yes. People with salmonellosis can spread the infection from several days to several
weeks after they've been infected — even if their symptoms have disappeared
or they've been treated with antibiotics.
Who Is at Risk for Salmonella Infections?
Not everyone who ingests Salmonella bacteria will become ill. Children,
especially infants, are most likely to get sick from it. About 50,000 cases of salmonellosis
are reported in the United States each year and about one third of those are in kids
4 years old or younger.
People at risk for more serious complications from a Salmonella infection
include those who:
In these higher-risk groups, most doctors will treat an infection with antibiotics
to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body. Antibiotics do not appear
to help a healthy person whose infection is not severe — and may actually lengthen
the amount of time the person will carry the bacteria.
How Are Salmonella Infections Diagnosed?
Because many different illnesses can cause similar symptoms (such as nausea, fever,
cramping, and diarrhea), doctors may send a stool (poop) sample to the lab for testing.
A severe Salmonella infection will require more testing to see which specific
germ is causing the illness and which antibiotics can be used to treat it.
How Are Salmonella Infections Treated?
If your child has salmonellosis and a healthy immune system, your doctor may let
the infection pass without giving any medicines. But any time a child develops a fever,
headache, or bloody diarrhea, call the doctor to rule out any other problems.
If your child is infected and has a fever, you may want to give acetaminophen
to lower the temperature and relieve cramping. As with any infection that causes diarrhea,
it's important to give your child plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration.
How Long Does a Salmonella Infection Last?
Salmonellosis symptoms can take from 6 to 72 hours to start after someone ingests
the bacteria. In most people, the illness lasts for 4 to 7 days after symptoms begin.
Can Salmonella Infections Be Prevented?
is a powerful way to guard against Salmonella infections. So teach kids to
wash their hands well and often, particularly after trips to the bathroom and before
Here are some other ways to protect your family from Salmonella infections:
Cook food thoroughly.Salmonella bacteria are most commonly
found in animal products and can be killed by the heat of cooking.
Don't serve raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat. Microwaving is not a reliable
way to kill the bacteria. If you're pregnant,
be especially careful to avoid undercooked foods.
Handle eggs carefully. Because Salmonella bacteria can
contaminate even intact and disinfected grade A eggs, cook them well and avoid serving
poached or sunny-side up eggs (with runny yolks).
Avoid foods that might contain raw ingredients. Caesar salad
dressing, the Italian dessert tiramisu, homemade ice cream, chocolate mousse, eggnog,
cookie dough, and frostings can contain raw eggs. Unpasteurized milk and juices also
can be contaminated with Salmonella.
Clean cooking surfaces regularly. Keep uncooked meats away from
cooked and ready-to-eat foods. Thoroughly wash your hands, cutting boards, counters,
and knives after handling uncooked foods.
Take care with pets. Avoid contact with the feces of family
pets — especially reptiles. Wash your hands well after handling an animal
and make sure that no reptiles are permitted to come into contact with a baby. Even
healthy reptiles (especially turtles and iguanas) are not safe pets for small children
and should not be in the same house as an infant.
Don't cook food for others if you are sick, especially if you
have vomiting or diarrhea.
Keep food chilled. Don't leave cooked food out for more than
2 hours after serving (1 hour on a hot day) and store it promptly. Also, keep your
refrigerator set to under 40°F (4.4°C).