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Have you ever heard of the term salmonella? No, it’s not a type of reptilian. In fact, it can make you very sick, and you might not even know you have it. Keep reading to learn more about a salmonella infection and its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

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What is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a rod-shaped, gram-negative bacilli that live in the intestines of both humans and animals. There are many different strains of salmonella including over 2,300 serotypes. Nevertheless, salmonella is microscopic living creatures that pass through the feces of humans or animals to other humans or animals. The one-celled organisms are too small to see with the naked eye.

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How Does Salmonella Spread?

When salmonella passes from human or animal feces into the water, soil, fruits, vegetables, or other surfaces it can make you sick. If you eat food contaminated with salmonella, you will experience the symptoms of salmonella infection. Besides eating food, you can also come in contact with the bacteria through pet feces or touching pet food contaminated with salmonella. Chicks, ducklings, and reptiles such as turtles also carry salmonella in the intestinal tract.

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What Are the Symptoms of Salmonella Infection?

Medically known as salmonellosis, an infection of salmonella causes symptoms similar to the flu. You will most likely notice symptoms within 12-72 hours after the infection. The symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. You may also experience diarrhea, which might be bloody. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), this infection causes approximately 1.4 million cases of illness along with 400 deaths annually within the United States alone.

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When Should You See a Doctor?

Many people with the salmonella infection do not seek medical treatment nor do they require it. However, salmonellosis can be life-threatening for a small group of people including infants, pregnant ladies, and the elderly. If you have a weakened immune system because of HIV/AIDS, cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, or other illnesses, then you are at a higher risk for the salmonella infection. While everyone is at risk of contracting the infection, serious cases generally arise only in a select group of patients.

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How is a Salmonella Infection Diagnosed and Treated?

A salmonella infection is diagnosed by a doctor through a stool test. There is not medical attention that can help with the infection. Drinking extra fluids is recommended. If you become severely dehydrated, you may need to rehydrate yourself with intravenous fluids, or an IV at a hospital. In the case that the infection spread to other parts of the body, antibiotics may be prescribed. The infection usually clears on its own within four to seven days.

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What Foods Might Contain Salmonella?

Foods that may have salmonella include any raw food from an animal like meat and poultry. However, eggs, milk, seafood, and certain fruits and vegetables can also carry the bacteria. Salmonella does not affect the sight, smell, or taste of food, so it is difficult to pinpoint if your food is contaminated before consuming it.

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Will Rinsing Vegetables and Fruits Get Rid of Salmonella?

The Food and Drug Administration explains that simply rinsing tainted food with water will not wash away the salmonella. However, it is essential to handle food safely. For example, you should always rinse your fruits and vegetables with water regardless. You also have the option to scrub the surface with a small brush to get rid of extra dirt or other surface materials.

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Does Cooking Kill Salmonella?

Yes, cooking your foods thoroughly can kill the bacteria. You can measure meat or poultry with a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. Salmonella cannot survive after it hits the minimal internal temperature that is safe to eat. You can also cook your fruits and vegetables opposed to eating them raw if you are worried about contamination.

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What if Food is Recalled for Salmonella?

At times, an entire stock of meat, fruits, or vegetables might be recalled because of the risk of salmonella. This could be anything from tomatoes to poultry. A recall means all of those products must be pulled from the shelves and disposed of. However, sometimes the items are already purchased and at home when the recall is announced. In that case, cooking the foods thoroughly should not be an option, either. You need to follow the protocol of health officials if they warn you about recalled food because of salmonella. Try to follow your local news and other media outlets so you are aware when these situations arise.

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How Else Can You Prevent a Salmonella Infection?

Besides getting rid of recalled products and cooking your food thoroughly, there are several other things you can do to prevent salmonella infection. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests using paper towels to clean a surface opposed to a cloth towel. If you do use cloth towels, make sure you wash them in a hot cycle. Another tip is to separate any raw meat, seafood, or poultry from other foods not only in your refrigerator but in the shopping cart and bags, too. You should never put cooked food on a plate that had raw meat, poultry, or seafood either. Avoid thawing frozen meats at room temperature and always wash any utensils, dishes, cutting boards, countertops, and other surfaces with hot, soapy water after contact with raw poultry, seafood, or meat.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.