• Signs and symptoms of salmonella infection

image of a cut cantaloupe

A salmonella outbreak in North America is being linked to cantaloupe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, is a common bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract. Salmonella bacteria typically live in animal and human intestines and are shed through feces. Humans become infected most frequently through contaminated water or food.

Typically, people with salmonella infection have no symptoms. Others develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within eight to 72 hours. Most healthy people recover within a few days without specific treatment.

In some cases, diarrhea associated with salmonella infection can be so dehydrating that it requires prompt medical attention. Life-threatening complications also can develop if the infection spreads beyond your intestines. Your risk of acquiring salmonella infection is higher if you travel to countries with poor sanitation.

Symptoms of salmonella infection

Most salmonella infections can be classified as stomach flu, or gastroenteritis. The incubation period ranges from several hours to two days.

Possible signs and symptoms of salmonella infection include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Blood in the stool

The symptoms generally last two to seven days. Diarrhea can last up to 10 days, although it may take several months before bowels return to normal.

A few varieties of salmonella bacteria can cause typhoid fever, a sometimes deadly disease that is more common in developing countries.

Causes of salmonella infection

Salmonella bacteria live in the intestines of people, animals and birds. Most people are infected with salmonella by eating foods that have been contaminated by feces.

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.

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