Bacteria of the Salmonella genus are a major cause of food-borne illness worldwide. Symptoms in most individuals infected with Salmonella are not life-threatening, however in young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems, Salmonella infection can be significantly more harmful. By ensuring that food is prepared carefully and properly, it may be possible to reduce the infection rates of Salmonella.
Each year there are approximately 40,000 reported cases of Salmonella infection in the United States, and infection rates are higher in nations with poor sanitation. The majority of infected individuals experience diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours after infection. Though Salmonella infection usually resolves without medical intervention within 7 days, for some individuals dehydration related to diarrhea may become severe and require hospitalization. In addition, a small number of infected individuals develop pain in their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.
Two serotypes of the approximately 2,500 that have been identified, Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium are the most common in the United States and account for half of all human infections. In addition to these common strains, antibiotic strain of Salmonella has recently been identified in 26 states, and to date it has sickened 77 people and killed one. Salmonella infection occurs when the bacterium are ingested, and it is commonly accepted that between 1 million and 1 billion bacteria are needed to cause infection.
The majority of infections are due to the consumption of foods that have been contaminated with animal feces. In recent years, outbreaks have been associated with chicken, turkey, and other meats; as well as eggs, and spinach and a number of other vegetables. To help limit the possibility of infection, experts suggest that consumers follow food preparation guidelines aimed at ensuring that food is properly cleaned and cooked thoroughly. These include washing surfaces and hands frequently, keeping raw meat separate from other ingredients, and ensuring that foods are fully cooked and properly stored. By ensuring that food is handled appropriately, it may be possible to reduce rates of Salmonella infection.
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