Salmonella bacteria are one of the most common causes of food-related illnesses. It can lead to an infection, called salmonellosis. You can become infected with Salmonella by drinking water or eating food that is contaminated with the organism. You can also become sick through contact with infected people or animals.

Any person can get salmonellosis. Children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65 years and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for getting very sick.


Salmonella is commonly found in raw meat and poultry, eggs and unpasteurized milk and cheese products. Other sources of exposure may include contact with infected reptiles, chicks or ducks, or dogs and cats.

One way to prevent infection is to practice good hand hygiene. Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after touching food, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper and when taking care of someone with a Salmonella infection.

To keep your food safe from bacteria:

  • Use separate shopping bags for raw meats while food shopping.
  • Refrigerate foods quickly.
  • Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and other foods.
  • Wash counters and cooking tools with hot soapy water before and after preparing raw meats.
  • Make sure meat and poultry are thoroughly cooked on the inside to the recommended temperatures, especially when using a microwave. Make sure your cooked meat is brown throughout (not pink), and the juices run clear.
  • Avoid eating raw eggs, and be sure to thoroughly cook foods that contain raw eggs.
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meats.
  • Drink only pasteurized milk and milk products.


If you have been infected with Salmonella, you may start to experience the following symptoms in one to three days:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain

Once you are infected, you may have the bacteria in your stool for anywhere between several days and many months. Infants and people who have been treated with antibiotics may have the germ in their bodies longer than others.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Health care provider can test for Salmonella most commonly from stool, but also urine, blood or other sources. Most people with salmonellosis will recover on their own. They only need to take fluids to prevent dehydration. Antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medicines are not recommended.

Returning to Work or School

Salmonella bacteria live in the stool, so people should stay home from work, school or day care if they have diarrhea. Once their stools are solid, people can return to work or school.

Food handlers, health care workers, daycare employees and children in day care who are younger than 5 years, must get approval from the Health Department before they can return to their routine activities. This may involve follow-up stool testing to be sure that they are no longer infectious.

More Information

For data on Salmonella in New York City visit EpiQuery.