Salmonellosis is an infection of the intestine caused by Salmonella bacteria. These bacteria are a frequent cause of food poisoning. Salmonella has also been used as a bioterrorist weapon.
The symptoms usually start 12 to 72 hours after infection with the bacteria.
Most persons infected with salmonellosis develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. The illness usually lasts 5 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment. Persons with severe diarrhea may require rehydration with intravenous fluids. Salmonella can also cause urinary tract, bloodstream, and wound infections.
You get salmonellosis by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with human or animal feces containing the bacteria. You can also get it if you put your hands to your mouth after touching Salmonella-carrying animals (including turtles, chicks, dogs, cats and rodents). Foods that are often connected to salmonella food poisoning include eggs, poultry, beef, pork, and unpasteurized dairy products, but any food contaminated with the bacteria can be a source of infection, including shelf stable and frozen pre-packaged foods. Additionally, salmonellosis is spread from person-to-person by fecal-oral contact that can occur when taking care of or eating foods prepared by someone with diarrhea caused by Salmonella. Some people may be infected with Salmonella and can spread it to others without showing any symptoms of illness.
Other bacteria and viruses can cause similar illness. Your doctor can order tests to detect Salmonella bacteria in stool.
Fluid and electrolyte replacement is most important. Most persons with salmonellosis will recover without treatment. However, a doctor can prescribe medicines to treat severe cases of the disease. Infants, the elderly, and those with other medical problems should be evaluated by a doctor.
There is no evidence of lasting immunity.
Salmonellosis is a common cause of diarrheal illness, and people of all ages can become infected though it is more frequent in children under 5 years of age. The very young and very old, as well as the immunocompromised, are at higher risk of developing severe infections.
- Students with diarrhea should stay home from school until the diarrhea stops. Food handlers, day care workers, and health care workers should not return to work until they have their doctor’s permission, usually after two lab tests showing they are no longer infected.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet, after changing diapers, after handling pets, and especially before preparing or eating food.
- Do not drink untreated water (ponds, streams, rivers).
- Do not drink unpasteurized (raw) milk or eat raw or undercooked meat, and refrigerate foods promptly after purchase. Do not eat raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs.
- Always treat raw poultry, beef, and pork as if they were contaminated. Keep food that will be eaten raw, such as vegetables, from becoming contaminated by animal products. Do not lick your fingers, touch other foods, or smoke a cigarette before washing your hands after handling raw meat.
- Wash cutting boards thoroughly after contact with each food, so that the boards do not contaminate the next food prepared.
- Cook poultry and meats to an even inner temperature (usually 165°F or higher), especially when using a microwave. Check food temperatures with a thermometer.
- Avoid letting infants or young children touch reptiles, such as turtles or iguanas.
- Avoid sexual practices that may permit fecal-oral transmission.
Salmonellosis is a ROUTINE/ENTERIC (enteric prevention priority) notifiable condition and must be reported by phone if the individual is a food handler, direct care provider, or pre-school aged child. Otherwise routine reports may be used.
Disease Reporting Phone Numbers (24/7)
Oahu (Disease Investigation Branch): (808) 586-4586
Maui District Health Office: (808) 984-8213
Kauai District Health Office: (808) 241-3563
Big Island District Health Office (Hilo): (808) 933-0912
Big Island District Health Office (Kona): (808) 322-4877
After hours on Oahu: (808) 566-5049
After hours on neighbor islands: (800) 360-2575 (toll free)
For more information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)