Salmonella Infection

1 What is Salmonella Infection?

Salmonella infection is caused by bacteria that affects intestinal tract. Salmonella bacteria often lives in human intestines and are shred through feces. Contaminated water or food are the common sources of this infection. 

Typically, there are no symptoms in some people effected with salmonella but others develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within 8-72 hours. Mostly healthy people with no other disorders recover within a few days without specific treatment. 

In some cases, the diarrhea associated with salmonella infection can be so dehydrating and require medical attention. If the infection spreads beyond intestines, it can become a potential life threatening complication.

2 Symptoms

Possible signs and symptoms of salmonella infection include: 

  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Abdominal cramps 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Fever 
  • Chills 
  • Headache 
  • Blood in the stool. 

Signs and symptoms of salmonella infection usually last for four to seven days, although it will take several days for the intestines to return to the normal stage. There are a few varieties of salmonella exists which result in typhoid fever common in developing countries. 

Salmonella infection is caused by eating raw or uncooked meat, poultry, eggs, or egg products. Incubation period of salmonella includes from several hours to two days.

3 Causes

Salmonella infection is caused by the congestion of food infected with salmonella bacteria. Salmonella bacteria live in the intestines of people, animals and birds. 

Some of the foods which are usually infected with salmonella include:

  • raw meat, poultry and seafood- during the process of butchering feces may get into raw meat and poultry. If the water is contaminated the seafood which is harvested may cause the infection. 
  • Raw eggs- the outer covering of egg seems to be perfect barrier to stop contamination but some infected chicken produce egg which are infected with salmonella even before the shell is formed. Fruits and vegetables- some fresh, imported varieties maybe processed in water contaminated with salmonella. 
  • Sometimes uncooked foods, such as salads, can come into contact with juices from raw meat and poultry and get contaminated. Some spices the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found traces of contaminants in spices. 
  • Hygiene- some food may get contaminated when processed by people who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet or help a child use toilet.  Infection can spread by touching contaminated pets especially birds and reptiles.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of salmonella infection is done by performing several tests.

It is recommended to visit an infection specialist if possible. The doctor would perform a thorough physical checkup followed by testing a stool sample.

The stool sample is sent for further laboratory tests. If the doctor suspects bacteremia (bacteria in the blood). Then the doctor would suggest a blood test for the bacteria. 

5 Treatment

The treatment of salmonella infection is directed towards prevention of complications and focuses on replacing fluids and electrolytes. Sometimes hospitalization is required and intravenous fluid infusion is given in severe cases of dehydration

The following medications are recommended:

  • Anti-diarrheals: these medications may help to relieve cramping and prolong the diarrhea associated with salmonella Infection. Drugs such as loperamide are given. 
  • Antibiotics: they are given in cases of immunocompromised people or people with bacteremia. Anti-biotics do not benefit in uncomplicated cases. In fact, antibiotics can prolong the period of infection, infect others and increase the risk of relapse. 

6 Prevention

Several preventive methods exist for salmonella infection.

A salmonella action plan has been created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which involves updating and enhancing the inspection of poultry slaughter. 

The main purpose of the plan is to reduce the number of salmonella infection in the United States. Preventive methods are very important to prevent contracting the infection. And spreading of infection to young and older people with compromised immune systems. 

Some of the steps include:

  • cooking the food properly or freeze the food promptly,
  • washing the hands thoroughly after:
    • using the toilet or helping child to use a toilet,
    • changing the diaper,
    • dealing with raw meat or poultry,
    • cleaning pet feces,
    • touching reptiles or birds. 

Prevent cross contamination. It is important to store raw meat, poultry and sea food away from other foods. Keeping two separate cutting boards, one for raw meat and the others for fruits and vegetables. 

To place cooked food on an unwashed plate that was used from raw plate. And finally avoid eating raw eggs. All those food items that contain egg must be avoided such as cookie dough, homemade ice creams, and eggnog. Only pasteurized raw eggs must be consumed.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Some lifestyle changes are required in order to cope with salmonella infection. Generally, it is a self-resolving infection. But it is recommended to drink plenty of fluids and washing hands after using toilet to prevent spreading of infection.

8 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with salmonella infection.

The following factors increase the risk of having salmonella infection: 

  • increased exposure- travelling to developing nations with poor sanitation may increase the risk or having a pet particularly birds and reptiles which are infected with salmonella infection. 
  • Stomach and bowel disorders- some medical disorders or medications can decrease the natural defenses like stomach acid against salmonella bacteria. Some of the examples include antacids which lower the acidity of stomach allowing salmonella to survive better. 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease- in this disorder salmonella bacteria gets a better hold over the lining of intestines because the mucous membranes are damaged in this disease. 
  • Use of antibiotics- frequent use of antibiotics decreases the number of good bacteria allowing salmonella to penetrate the bowel wall. 
  • Immune problems- those medical conditions which cause depression of immune system increase the risk of contracting this salmonella infection. Examples include AIDS, sickle anemia, malaria, immunosuppressive drugs taken after organ transplant, corticosteroids. 

Complications caused by salmonella infection are not life threatening in healthy individuals but in certain people with weak immune system complications can be dangerous. 

Some of them are as follows: 

  • Dehydration: salmonella is characterized by persistent diarrhea which can lead to dehydration. The signs of dehydration are decreased urine output, dry mouth and tongue, sunken eyes, dry skin and reduced production of tears while crying. 
  • Bacteremia: This condition occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream and spreads to covering of brain and spinal cord (meningitis), lining of heart or valves (endocarditis), bone or bone marrow(osteomyelitis) and to the lining of blood vessels (vasculitis).
  • Reactive arthritis: sometimes people with salmonella infection can develop reactive arthritis also known as reiter’s syndrome which causes eye irritation, painful urination and painful joints.

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