• Health & Wellness

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Tips to avoid salmonella infection

Salmonella has been in the news thanks to a recent outbreak linked to cantaloupes. Dr. Jesse Bracamonte is a family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic. He has some tips on how to prevent being bit by this bacterial bug.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

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Salmonella is a bacterial infection that affects the intestinal tract.

"Salmonella is contracted through poorly cooked foods — such as meat, poultry, eggs, milk — poor water conditions or poor sanitation," says Dr. Bracamonte.

The infection also can be spread through human and animal feces.

"Salmonella may cause an intestinal infection, such as having diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating, and, in some cases, fever," he says.

The good news is that, generally, cases will resolve on their own within a few days. 

"In some cases, with severe illness, where it's unrelenting beyond a few days, seeking prompt medical attention is very important," says Dr. Bracamonte. 

So how can you protect yourself?

Be careful when preparing food, especially raw meat and poultry.  Prevent cross-contamination of foods, and most importantly, wash your hands.

Causes of salmonella infection

People can become ill from infection from a variety of sources. Commonly infected foods include:

  • Raw meat, poultry and seafood
    Feces may get onto raw meat and poultry during the butchering process. Seafood may be contaminated if harvested from contaminated water.
  • Raw eggs
    While an egg's shell may seem to be a perfect barrier to contamination, some infected chickens produce eggs that contain salmonella before the shell is even formed. Raw eggs are used in homemade versions of mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce.
  • Fruits and vegetables
    Some fresh produce, particularly imported varieties, may be hydrated in the field or washed during processing with water contaminated with salmonella. Contamination also can occur in the kitchen when juices from raw meat and poultry come into contact with uncooked foods, such as salads.

Some pet foods, including dry dog food, may be contaminated with salmonella and can infect animals. 

Dr. Bracamonte says salmonella also is harbored in some animals, such as reptileacs and birds. So if you have those pets, it's important that you wash your hands appropriately after handling them.

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