More than 1 million Americans each year become sick with salmonella infection. Most people get sick from eating foods contaminated with salmonella bacteria including fresh produce, raw eggs and uncooked meat. Other ways to get sick include from animals, pet food and petting zoos. The good news, says Dr. Summer Allen, a Mayo Clinic family medicine specialist, is that most people recover within a few days.
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"An infection with salmonella for patients will often appear like a stomach bug or stomach flu-type symptoms," says Dr. Allen.
Symptoms usually develop 12 to 72 hours after exposure to salmonella bacteria and usually last two to seven days.
"Most people don't require any treatment outside of fluids and some rest and making sure that they stay hydrated," says Dr. Allen.
Dehydration from persistent diarrhea is a common complication. Those at highest risk of severe illness are young children, older adults and those with weakened immune systems.
"If someone feels they're dehydrated, severely unable to keep fluids down, and they need to seek medical attention or have a condition that compromises their immune system, then they may need antibiotics. But, for most of us, this will resolve on its own."
You can’t tell if someone or something is infected with salmonella. The bacteria live in the intestinal tract. It can spread from animals to humans and person to person. Dr. Allen says good hand hygiene is one way to decrease your chance of infection.
"If people wash their hands thoroughly or, in some cases, at least use hand sanitizer, that’s going to be extremely helpful and protective to them."