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Nobody wants to get sick, especially if it can be avoided. And because there has been a nationwide increase of Salmonella infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is collaborating with several other entities including, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and others to investigate this increase. The good news is that there are some things you can do to protect yourself.
To give you some background, Salmonella is a group of illness-causing bacteria that mostly live in the intestinal tracts of animals and birds that can be transmitted to humans by contaminated foods of animal origin such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs. However, any food, including vegetables, may become contaminated. For example, one type of bacteria known as Salmonella Enteritidis can be found on both the outside and inside of eggs even if they appear normal. If the eggs are eaten raw or undercooked, it can cause illness.
If you are infected with Salmonella, symptoms will usually appear 12-72 hours after consuming the contaminated food or beverage with the illness lasting 4-7 days. Common symptoms include: fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Most people do recover without antibiotic treatment; however, if the diarrhea is severe, the fever cannot be controlled, or a sick person is not able to keep adequately hydrated with fluids, you should seek medical attention. Infants, the elderly, and those with a weakened immune system are more vulnerable to severe illness and should be treated promptly with antibiotics.
Here are some tips to reduce your risk of a Salmonella infection:
• Avoid eating undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat
• Keep eggs, meat, and poultry products refrigerated
• Discard cracked or dirty eggs
• Wash hands and cooking utensils with soap and water after contact with raw eggs, meat, or poultry
• Avoid consuming raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products
• Thoroughly wash produce
In addition, Salmonella can be found in the feces of some pets, especially turtles, lizards, snakes, young birds and those with diarrhea. It is possible to become infected by not properly washing your hands after contact with pets or pet feces, so always be sure to wash your hands immediately after handling a reptile or bird, even if the animal is healthy.
For more information, visit the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/
Answer submitted by Sue Quirin, RN, BSN, CIC, Infection Control Practitioner at Provena Mercy Medical Center Behavioral Health Services.