With this most recent recall of eggs by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s a good time, according to Jeff Jarvis, MD, Emergency Medicine physician at Scott & White Healthcare – Round Rock, to understand the signs and symptoms of salmonella (also referred to as food poisoning), in addition to easy ways to help avoid your risk of contracting the disease.
“There are close to 2,500 salmonella bacteria, but only about a dozen of them actually cause illness,” said Dr. Jarvis. Most varieties of salmonella-induced illnesses fall into the category of gastroenteritis, but a few are responsible for causing typhoid fever. This most recent recall refers to a strain that causes gastroenteritis.
Salmonella-induced gastroenteritis can be caused by eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or egg products. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days before symptoms appear.
“Common symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, fever, headache, muscle pains or blood in the stool,” explained Dr. Jarvis. “Individuals may not necessarily show all these symptoms at one time, but experience one or two on a more severe level than usual, usually lasting four to seven days.”
The good news is, most of the 50,000 healthy people infected with salmonella every year recover without any specific treatment. Dr. Jarvis recommends that individuals experiencing diarrhea stay well hydrated, as dehydration is one of the more severe results of salmonella. If a child develops symptoms, especially a fever, headache or bloody diarrhea, parents should bring them to their pediatrician or the Emergency Room to rule out any other problems.
Dr. Jarvis offers these tips to prevent salmonella bacteria from making you and your family sick:
- Always fully cook poultry, meat and eggs – and avoid serving poached eggs or eggs that are sunny-side up. Microwaving is not an effective way to kill the salmonella bacteria.
- When preparing meals, separate uncooked meats from other cooked and ready-to-eat foods. Be sure to wash your hands, cutting boards, counters and any utensils used after handling uncooked foods.
- Avoid unpasteurized milk and juices, in addition to raw-food products like Caesar salad dressing, tiramisu, homemade ice cream, chocolate mousse, eggnog, cookie dough and frostings that may contain raw eggs.
- Always wash your hands, particularly after using the toilet, preparing food, and after coming into contact with the feces of family pets, especially reptiles.
“It’s important to remember that not everyone who ingests the salmonella bacteria will become ill,” reminded Dr. Jarvis. “Children and infants are more likely to get sick, so parents should be especially watchful if they begin to develop symptoms.”
Dr. Jarvis added that anyone with symptoms lasting longer than a week should see their physician or visit the Emergency Room to determine if any other health issues are present.