You may have heard that there was another salmonella outbreak in the United States and that you should throw away your meat and poultry. Some sources are even saying you should throw away items from months ago, but you may be asking yourself if that’s really necessary. Here’s everything you need to know about salmonella.
Salmonella is a bacterium that causes a disease called salmonellosis. Salmonellosis is an infection of the gastrointestinal system and it can cause symptoms like fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.
You get a salmonella infection by eating food that has been contaminated by the bacteria or by coming into contact with animals that naturally carry it. Common foods that may be tainted with salmonella include eggs, poultry, meat, milk, cheese, and some fruits and vegetables (if they have been washed in contaminated water.) Common animals that may carry salmonella include reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Despite its name, salmonellosis is not a disease you specifically get from consuming or handling salmon. Also, it’s important to remember that the freezing process does not kill the bacteria. Therefore, even if you have frozen meat, it is best you discard it if you originally bought it at a time when there was a known salmonella outbreak.
You show signs of salmonellosis approximately 12-72 hours after exposure. Once symptoms appear, you can expect them to last approximately one week. In most people, symptoms are limited to gastrointestinal complaints. However, diarrhea can be a serious problem if you are losing too much water and you do not hydrate yourself, so it is important to keep drinking fluids and replenishing your electrolytes. Salmonellosis can also sometimes cause more serious complications like bacteremia (when the bacteria enter your bloodstream) and a combination of symptoms known as reactive arthritis (eye irritation, burning urination, and painful joints.)
In order to avoid catching salmonellosis, maintaining hygiene practices and properly cooking your food is very important. Wash your hands every time you handle any food items. Keep different ingredients separate from each other to avoid cross-contamination until you are ready to cook them. And avoid eating raw or uncooked eggs. Remember, cookie dough and some homemade recipes for eggnog and ice cream may contain raw eggs.
Luckily, salmonellosis usually goes away on its own without the need for treatment. However, if you are young, old, have a compromised immune system, or start developing more serious symptoms, talk to your doctor. More severe cases of salmonellosis require antibiotics to be fully treated.