What to Know About Salmonella

What to Know About Salmonella

It’s a type of bacteria that can make you sick. It infects about 1.35 million people in the U.S. every year. Salmonella can be quite serious, especially for those who are very old, very young, or already sick. The illness sends thousands of people to the hospital each year. Sometimes it’s life-threatening.

How You Get It From Food?

You most often get salmonella when you eat or drink something that has the bacteria in it. It’s more common in food that comes from animals, like eggs, beef, and poultry. But soil or water can contaminate fruits and vegetables, too. You also can move the bacteria from one food to another with your hands or with knives, boards, platters, and other kitchen tools. You can get the infection if you don’t cook certain foods well enough.

How You Get It From Animals?

Salmonella bacteria live in the gut of certain types of animals, especially:

  • Birds, such as chickens and turkeys
  • Amphibians, such as frogs, toads, and salamanders
  • Reptiles, such as snakes, lizards, and turtles

If poop from these animals gets on your hands, you might infect yourself or others. Human poop can spread the disease, too, which is why handwashing is so important after you go to the bathroom.

Who Gets it?

Salmonella doesn’t sicken everyone who gets the bacteria into their body. Kids under age 5 are most likely to get it, and about a third of all cases happen in kids 4 or younger. Babies who aren’t breastfed are more likely to get it. Certain medications, like those that lessen stomach acid, could also raise your chances of infection.

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You typically get diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. You also may have headache, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms usually begin 6 hours to 6 days after infection and last 4-7 days. You usually feel better in about a week, though it can take a few months for your bowel movements to return to normal. Sometimes infections spread to your blood, bones, joints, brain, or nervous system and cause long-term symptoms affecting those areas.

When to Call the Doctor?

Check with your doctor if you notice:

  • Blood in your bowel movement
  • Diarrhea that doesn’t get better after 3 days
  • Dehydration signs like dry mouth, low amounts of urine, and feeling dizzy when you stand
  • Vomiting so much that it’s hard to stay hydrated


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