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Salmonellosis

What is salmonellosis?
Salmonellosis is an infection of the intestines caused by the bacteria (germs) Salmonella. Occasionally it spreads to the bloodstream. It is one of the more common causes of food-related illness. Most salmonellosis cases occur in the summer and early fall. For data on salmonellosis in New York City visit EpiQuery.
Who gets salmonellosis?
Any person can get salmonellosis, but it is seen more often in infants and children.
How are Salmonella bacteria spread?
Salmonella germs are spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, or by direct contact with infected people or animals.
Where are Salmonella found?
Salmonella are widely distributed in our food chain and environment. The bacteria often contaminate raw meat and poultry, eggs, unpasteurized milk, and cheese products. Other sources of exposure may include contact with infected pet reptiles, pet chicks or ducks, dogs, and cats.
What are the symptoms of salmonellosis?
People infected by Salmonella may experience mild or severe diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, and occasionally vomiting. Bloodstream infections are less common, but can be quite serious for the very young or elderly.
How soon after infection do symptoms appear?
The symptoms generally appear 1 to 3 days after infection.
For how long can an infected person carry the Salmonella germ?
The carrier stage varies from several days to many months. Infants and people who have been treated with oral antibiotics tend to carry the germ longer than others.
How is salmonellosis diagnosed?
If a doctor suspects salmonellosis, he/she can request tests to check a patient's stool (feces) or blood for the bacteria.
What is the treatment for salmonellosis?
Most people with salmonellosis will recover on their own or require only fluids to prevent dehydration. Antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medicines are generally not recommended.
Should an infected person stay home from work or school?
Since Salmonella bacteria are in the stool (feces), only people with active diarrhea who are unable to control their bowel habits (e.g., infants, young children, certain handicapped individuals) should stay home from work or school/daycare. Most infected people may return to work or school when their stools become formed as long as they carefully wash their hands with soap and warm running water after using the toilet. Food handlers, health care workers, and children in day care must obtain the approval of the Health Department before returning to their routine activities. This requires follow-up stool testing to be sure that they are no longer infectious.
How can salmonellosis be prevented?
Take steps to help keep your food safe from bacteria.
  • Always treat raw poultry, beef, and pork as if they are potentially contaminated and handle accordingly: Wrap fresh meats in plastic bags at the market to prevent blood from dripping on other foods.
  • Refrigerate foods promptly; minimize holding at room temperature.
  • Cutting boards and counters used for food preparation should be washed immediately after use with hot soapy water to prevent cross contamination with other foods.
  • Make sure meat and poultry are thoroughly cooked on the inside to the recommended temperatures, especially when using a microwave.
  • Avoid eating raw eggs and be sure to thoroughly cook foods that contain raw eggs.
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meats.
  • Avoid using raw milk.

Wash hands often.

  • Encourage careful hand washing with soap and warm running water after using the toilet or changing diapers, and before and after food preparation.
  • Make sure children, particularly those who handle pets, wash their hands carefully with soap and warm running water.

Last Updated: March 2012