What is salmonella? What to know about the bacteria, the illness and the symptoms

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The bacteria kills hundreds of people in the U.S. every year. About 1 million cases of illness are caused by salmonella in food. (Shutterstock)

What is salmonella?

Salmonella is a bacteria that can give you an infection called salmonellosis. Most human infections are caused by the consumption of food that is contaminated with the bacteria, the Centers for Disease Control reports.

The bacteria is named after Dr. Salmon, the American scientist who discovered it in the 19th century, according to the CDC.

What are the symptoms?

Contracting an intestinal infection from salmonella can lead to diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. These symptoms usually appear within three days after infection and usually go away in 4-7 days.

In some cases, the infection may spread to the blood stream and other parts of the body. These cases are associated with more severe diarrhea which can lead to hospitalization. Severe cases can be deadly if not treated promptly with antibiotics.

How common is salmonellosis and how often do patients die?

There are about 1 million food-related illnesses caused by salmonella contracted in the United States each year. Of these, about 19,000 people are hospitalized and 380 die.

How do I prevent salmonellosis?

In general, consuming raw animal products can increase your chances of coming into contact with salmonella. Here are just a few of the tips shared by the CDC.

"Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly."
"Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry."
"Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or baby chicks, and after contact with pet feces."
"Don't work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.
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Finally, do not eat products that are believed to be contaminated with salmonella.

Where do I find out about salmonella contamination concerns?

The CDC keeps a list of current outbreaks it is investigating.

At times food companies themselves will release information about salmonella concerns. To see the latest news, click on the "salmonella" tag at the top or bottom of this story.
Related Topics:
healthsalmonellacenters for disease controlu.s. & world