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  Salmonella poisoning

Salmonellosis is an infectious condition caused by a group of microorganisms known as salmonella. This group of harmful bacteria can cause diarrheal illness in the human body. The mode of transmission of these germs is through the fecal-oral route which means microscopic salmonella bacteria pass from the feces of one individual or animals, to another individual or other animals. This group of bacteria is also found in poultry, eggs, unprocessed milk, meat and water. Moreover, it may also be carried by pets such as turtles and birds. Examples of Salmonella species are the Salmonella serotype Typhimurium and Salmonella serotype Enteritidis, the two most common groups or serotypes in the United States. The former is the most common causative agent for the condition known as typhoid fever.

Salmonella poisoning Salmonellosis
Salmonella poisoning

Common symptoms when you have salmonellosis are diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal in origin because the salmonella bacteria attack the stomach and intestinal mucosa. Those with less serious infections usually last 4 to 7 days and even without treatment most persons recover without complications. However, some forms of salmonellosis are severe wherein the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these severe cases, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the lymphatic vessels, blood stream and then to other body sites hence; can cause death especially if untreated promptly with appropriate antibiotics. There is no age predilection with this type of infection. It attacks all age groups and in both sexes. Patients belonging to the elderly age group, infants, children and especially those with impaired immune systems tend to get more serious salmonella infection.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning may include: diarrhea or constipation, headaches, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, fever and presence of blood in the stool.

Proper identification of the Salmonella bacteria as the causative agent is crucial in the definitive diagnosis of Salmonellosis. Laboratory tests are needed as a diagnostic tool to detect the presence of Salmonella in the stools or blood of an infected person. The laboratory personnel are instructed specifically to look for the organism in the specimen such as blood and stool in a procedure known as culture. After the identification of Salmonella, further testing can performed to determine its specific serotype so that selection of appropriate antibiotics could be made to properly manage the condition. Rehydration with fluids is likewise very important in the treatment especially for those with severe diarrhea with accompanying protracted vomiting.

Seek immediate medical attention if diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours or if accompanied by the following ominous signs and symptoms: more frequent and intense diarrhea; severe stomach cramps; bloody stool; fever with temperature of 38oC or higher; jaundice (yellowish discoloration of the skin or eyes) indicating liver problem.

Signs of severe dehydration include: dry mouth, lips, tongue and mucous membranes, dry chapped skin, excessive thirst, dark urine (concentrated urine), oliguria (lack or decreased urine output), body weakness or malaise. Severe diarrhea and vomiting may lead to excessive loss of body fluids, salts, minerals and other important electrolytes. This may be a life threatening condition because of the danger of hypovolemic shock or circulatory collapse. Increased risk of shock has been found among babies, infants and elderly patients.

Preventive measures to avoid salmonella food poisoning include: paying attention to cleanliness which means always practice proper washing of hands with disinfectant or soap after going to the toilet and before preparing food to prevent cross-contamination; make it sure that your food particularly poultry and minced meat has been thoroughly cooked or boiled because heat is the only effective way to kill salmonella; it is advisable to use a knife to break the egg shell and never crack a raw egg on a bowl containing other foods since salmonella bacteria exist only on the shell and lastly, it is suggested that the eggs should be scalded first with boiling water for about five seconds before use.

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