Salmonella poisoning is a painful bacterial infection that affects the digestive system, causing severe diarrhea in some cases. The infection, known as salmonellosis, is spread through contact with contaminated animal feces. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 40,000 salmonellosis cases are reported in the United States each year.
A salmonella infection causes mild to severe intestinal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, chills, blood in the stool, muscle pain and fever approximately 12 to 72 hours after a person is infected. According to the CDC, the diagnosis rate for children under 5 years of age is five times higher than the rate of salmonella infection in all other age groups.
Symptoms of Complications
Salmonellosis, while painful, isn’t usually life-threatening in previously healthy people. People with compromised immune symptoms, transplants recipients, the elderly and children are more likely develop severe symptoms if they contract salmonellosis. Persistent, severe diarrhea can make it difficult to keep enough liquid in your body and dehydration can occur as a result. Dehydration may make someone affected by salmonellosis feel even sicker. If you develop dehydration, you may notice a dry mouth and tongue, sunken eyes, decreased urination and a reduction in tears. Reiter’s syndrome, a form of arthritis, can develop in people who have had a salmonella infection, usually at some point after the infection has resolved. Symptoms of Reiter’s syndrome include joint pain, pain when urinating and eye irritation. In some cases, the salmonella bacteria migrate from the intestines to the the bloodstream. The bacteria may travel to the lining of the brain and cause meningitis, or spread to the lining of the heart, the heart valves, and the bones or bone marrow.
Salmonellosis is diagnosed by examining a sample of your stool if your doctor suspects a salmonella infection based on your symptoms. Your blood may also be tested to determine if salmonella bacteria have entered your bloodstream.
In many cases, salmonellosis will resolve in on its own in four or five days. During this time, you should restrict your diet to clear fluids. Mild dehydration can be treated at home by drinking oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte or sports drinks containing electrolytes. In cases of severe dehydration, patients may need to receive intravenous fluids at a hospital. If salmonella enters the bloodstream, the bacterial infection can spread to the lining of the brain and cause meningitis, or spread to the lining of the heart, the heart valves, and the bones or bone marrow. Treatment with antibiotics is needed if this happens and other complications, and even death, may occur as a result of the new infections. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may be used to treat the pain resulting from Reiter’s syndrome.
Salmonella bacteria can be transferred from an animal to a human in several ways. Eating infected meat, eggs, poultry or beef can cause a salmonellosis infection. Even vegetables can be infected with salmonella if they are grown in soil contaminated with salmonella. Raw eggs and unpasteurized milk can also harbor salmonella. Salmonellosis can be spread from person to person if someone who has the infection and does not wash their hands after using the bathroom and then handles food that is served to other people. Turtles, lizards, young birds and chicks can carry salmonella and it is a good idea to always wash your hands after handling these animals to prevent salmonellosis.
There are a few varieties of salmonella bacteria that can cause typhoid fever. These varieties are usually found in developing countries that don’t have the same sewage processing standards as the United States. If you have recently visited one of these countries and develop red spots on your upper chest, a fever over 102 degrees F, diarrhea, constipation, coughing or mental confusion, contact your doctor immediately.