The Grapevine

Effects Of Salmonella Poisoning: How To Know If You Are Infected

On April 13, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the recall of 200 million eggs from Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, Indiana. The eggs were suspected to be contaminated with salmonella, with 22 cases of illnesses reported so far. The eggs have reached consumers in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Salmonella refers to a bacterium which can cause an infection known as salmonellosis. According to estimations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), salmonella causes nearly 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths in the United States each year.

It is important to keep in mind that certain groups are at higher risk of contracting the infection: People older than 65 or younger than 20, transplant recipients, pregnant women, people with weak immune systems, those who consume a diet containing a lot of animal-sourced foods, and people traveling through countries with poor sanitation. Owners of pets (including reptiles or birds) are also vulnerable since salmonella can reside in animal feces. 

But a significant majority of the cases are caused by foods sourced from animals (eggs, meat, dairy products, and seafood) which can carry the bacteria, particularly in raw or undercooked form. The infection will affect the intestinal tract and even the bloodstream in some cases. While not everyone experiences recognizable symptoms, the following signs may become apparent anywhere between a few hours to 3 days after consuming the contaminated food. 

1. Fever: The infected person may experience a fever of 100°F to 102°F which can be accompanied by a general feeling of sickness, headache and body ache. Consulting a doctor is recommended if the fever hits 101.5°F or exceeds it.

2. Abdominal Cramps: Since the bacteria can live in the digestive tract, muscles in the abdomen will begin contracting. As a result, this can lead to painful cramps. There may also be an accompanying loss of appetite.

3. Nausea: Severe discomfort could occur in the forms of vomiting and nausea, warns Dr. William A. Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee. If the infected person throws up, they may need fluids and have to take extra steps to stay hydrated.

4. Diarrhea: The bacteria can damage the body's ability to absorb and retain fluids, causing diarrhea. The bowel system may take up to a month to recover, acting as another source of dehydration. If the diarrhea is bloody, the infected person may have to seek medical advice.

In rare cases, salmonella infections can cause long-term complications. According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are some cases where salmonella can enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver, kidneys, or other organs. Without medical intervention, this could lead to death. Another possible complication is Reiter’s syndrome, a condition that might lead to arthritis.

As long as the symptoms are not too severe, the infection is said to resolve itself in 3 to 7 days. Experts have recommended vulnerable individuals take precautions such as avoiding raw or undercooked animal-sourced food, keeping kitchen surfaces clean, and washing your hands after using the toilet or handling animals.