Salmonella poisoning

November 12, 2012

Salmonella poisoning

Salmonella can be contracted from many foods and is usually a type of food poisoning. It can be fatal, and common places for it to be found are in eggs, meat and unpasteurised milk.

Salmonella is a bacterium occurring mainly in the intestine and which can cause infections in humans.

Common source of infection

Salmonella is the second highest cause of infection in the US with over 7,000 confirmed cases in 2009.

Salmonella poisoning is the result of an infection caused by consumption of food contaminated by human or animal faecal matter that carries the salmonella bacteria.

Salmonella poisoning is usually connected to meat, eggs, or poultry, however, these products, if infected, can easily contaminate other food products such as fruit and vegetables.

The foods that are most likely to contain the salmonella bacteria are raw or undercooked eggs, raw, unpasteurised milk and cheese, raw or undercooked meat or poultry and contaminated water.


There are two categories of salmonella -

  • Non-typhoidal salmonella is the most common and is carried by humans and animals.

  • Typhoidal salmonella causes typhoid fever, is quite rare and carried only by humans.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning

There are wide varieties of salmonella poisoning symptoms – which are not always present. Symptoms typically appear within 72 hours of eating contaminated food and, left untreated, will last for up to seven days.

  • Diarrhoea – which may be bloody

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Fever

  • Vomiting

  • Headache

  • Body aches

Symptoms of typhoid fever

Typhoid symptoms may appear up to 14 days after ingesting contaminated food and the illness may last for as long as two months. Typhoid fever is a serious life threatening condition and, if suspected, medical treatment should be sought immediately. Symptoms include -

  • Fever of over 104F

  • Weakness and lethargy

  • Abdominal pain

  • Delirium

  • Enlarged organs

  • Coughing

  • Nosebleeds

Complications of salmonella poisoning

Young children and the elderly are more at risk of complications arising from salmonella poisoning.

  • Reactive arthritis occurs in as many as 15% of patients with salmonella. Symptoms of this complication, which may appear up to 18 days after infection, include joint, eyes or organ inflammation.

  • Focal infection – caused by typhoidal salmonella only and may cause arthritis or endocartitis because of salmonella bacteria in body tissue.


Most salmonella infections do not require any treatment; the infection lasts no longer than seven days. Occasionally patients may need to be intravenously rehydrated.

For those at risk of complications or the very young antibiotics may be prescribed. Typhoid fever requires a fourteen-day course of antibiotics.

As the salmonella bacterium becomes more resistant to antibiotics it has become more difficult to treat.


As with most things the prevention of a salmonella infection is better than the cure – the implementation of good hygiene procedures will do much to minimise the chances of contracting salmonella infection.

  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after food preparation

  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling any raw meat or poultry

  • Cook meat and eggs thoroughly – use a thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature is at least 160F

  • Avoid eating raw eggs, milk or cheese

  • Keep raw meats separate from fresh foods which will not be cooked

  • Do not cook raw meat in the microwave which may not achieve the required internal temperature

  • Wash hands with soap thoroughly after handling animals, reptiles and/or their faeces

  • Always wash your hands after using the bathroom.


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