Anju Goel, MD, is board-certified in internal medicine. She has over 10 years of experience in the California public health system addressing communicable disease, health policy, and disaster preparedness.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can produce a gastrointestinal illness called salmonellosis. The illness is typically caused by food contaminated with animal or human feces, or contact with animals that carry the bacteria.
Symptoms of salmonellosis include stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Typically, the illness runs its course in a few days with only supportive care needed. In older people or those with weakened immune systems, however, it can become more serious, causing dehydration or entering the bloodstream.
Avoiding certain uncooked food products, preparing and cooking food appropriately, and washing your hands during food preparation (especially after touching raw meat) and after contact with animals are the best ways to prevent infection with salmonella.
Approximately 94% of salmonella is transmitted by food. Humans usually become infected by eating foods contaminated with feces from an infected animal, especially undercooked meats and eggs. Human-to-human transmission is rare.
Salmonella bacteria is present in the feces of farm animals and can be present in their meat, milk, and eggs; consuming undercooked meat or eggs can increase your risk for infection. Salmonella bacteria can also be present in contaminated produce. Pets such as lizards, turtles, chickens, and other farm animals are often carriers of salmonella as well.
Salmonella typically lasts for four to seven days and resolves on its own with supportive care, including hydrating beverages and over-the-counter fever reducers and pain killers. If the infection spreads to the bloodstream and affects the body’s organs, the severity and duration of the illness increases.
Thoroughly cooking poultry, red meat, and eggs is key to preventing infection with salmonella. Poultry should never be pink in the middle. Raw eggs and raw unpasteurized milk are also a risk. Homemade salad dressings, hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, cookie dough, and eggnog can contain uncooked eggs.
Salmonella is characterized by gastrointestinal symptoms including watery diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. Symptoms usually last four to seven days and resolve on their own. In infants, the elderly, and those with a compromised immune system, salmonella can become more serious, leading to dehydration and affecting the internal organs.
A bacterial infection that spreads to the bloodstream after starting out as a localized infection. Bacteremia can cause sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection that requires immediate treatment. While salmonella infection is most commonly limited to the gastrointestinal system, in some cases, it can spread to the bloodstream.
Infections caused by the transmission of bacteria. People can be exposed to bacteria in a variety of ways. Salmonella is a bacteria that is usually contracted from eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. In the majority of cases, the contaminant is the feces of animals bred for human consumption.
The introduction of a foreign bacteria, a parasite, or virus that causes a substance—such as food or water—to become potentially harmful. The salmonella bacteria, often found in animal feces, can contaminate the meat and eggs of animals who are carrying it. When animal products contaminated by salmonella are consumed by humans, the result is often gastrointestinal illness.
A sample of stool that is examined by a lab to look for evidence of bacteria, parasites, or blood. To collect a sample, you place a small amount of stool in a small sterile container provided by your doctor. If your symptoms suggest salmonella, a stool sample can confirm it.
Centers for Disease Control. Infection with Salmonella