As an important health problem in the United States and many European countries, Salmonella can affect you at anytime or any place. But, there are ways to avoid it. You first must know the background and exactly what salmonella is.
Salmonella was discovered by a pioneering American Veterinary Scientist named Daniel E. Salmon. He discovered the first strain of this bacterium in the intestine of a dead pig. He named it salmonella after his last name, Salmon. The full scientific name is Salmonelliosis.
You may have heard a lot about salmonella in a recent Hoards Dairyman magazine, or on the news. Salmonelliosis is an infection with a bacterium called salmonella. The salmonella germ is a microscopic living creature that passes from the feces of people or animals to others. Salmonella has been causing illnesses for over 100 years. Salmonella is most common in birds, mainly poultry. Also susceptible to the bacteria is newborn calves. They can receive it by getting fed bloody colostrum from the dam. Also the feces from the dam could get in the mouth of the calf after being born.
Preventing salmonella from getting into your intestinal tract is fairly easy. All you need to do to prevent it is properly handle and cook eggs and other high risk foods. Uncooked eggs and meats should be kept separate from ready-to-eat foods. Another important factor on preventing salmonella is keeping hands, cutting boards, counters, knives, etcetera, clean and washed thoroughly. After dealing with animals make washing your hands a must!
What happens if you are at risk for salmonella? What are the symptoms? Hearing the symptoms just might make you think twice about not washing your hands after cleaning a barn or cleaning up after your pet. The incubation period, i.e. the time between ingestion and the onset of the first symptom, may be from six hours to ten days. Usually it is between six and forty-eight hours. The first sign of the bacteria is when it causes gastroenteritis. That is commonly referred to as diarrhea. You may also get a fever or abdominal cramps. The onset may be sudden and you may get nausea and vomiting. The diarrhea may contain mucous and/or blood. Infants and elderly people are most susceptible to disease and suffer most severe symptoms. It is in these people that it gains access to the blood stream.
If you have some long term medical problems, you may not be able to recover. People with diarrhea usually recover completely, although it may be several months before there bowel habits become normal. A small number of infected people develop pains in their joints, eye irritation, and painful urination. This is called Reiter’s Syndrome. It can last for months or years. It can also lead to chronic arthritis that is hard to treat.
Being the most common enteric, intestinal, infection in the United States, salmonella is very risky. Even if you just carelessly use a knife to eat with that you used to cut raw meat. In some states it is the most common and overall, the second most common food borne illness (food poisoning). The reported incidence of salmonella is about 17 cases per 100,000 people each year.
Recently the USDA announced a decline in salmonella in meat and poultry. They said that it could signal a decrease in illnesses and deaths caused by the bacterium. They also said that of 58,085 samples, 4.3 percent of the meat and poultry had salmonella. This was in 2002. Elsa Murano, secretary of food safety, said that the decline was due to a government meat safety program started in 1998.
If you have any of these symptoms, you need to actually find out if you have salmonella. To do this you need to see a doctor who can take cultures of your stool or blood. After the culture is incubated a microbiologist recognizes it by the unique characteristics of salmonella. There isn’t a vaccine to prevent the bacterium. You just need to make sure to wash your hands and not to cross contaminate, or undercook. To prevent the spread of salmonella, do not prepare food for others; pour water or a beverage of any kind to others unless you are fully recovered from salmonella.
It is rarely fatal; the fatality rate is under one percent. Practically the old and the young are the ones at risk. When you buy any meat or egg product, make sure you look for the USDA Approved sticker. Also, if it isn’t a meat or egg product, that doesn’t mean you can’t get salmonella, because you can. Any person with dirty hands can spread the bacteria to fruit. If you don’t wash fruit before you eat it, you may be eligible to receive the bacterium, salmonella.