Salmonella infections are caused by a certain type of bacteria in the genus Salmonella. A common cause of food poisoning, these bacteria live in the intestines of humans, animals and birds and are shed through feces.
Common sources of salmonella infections
Most salmonella infections result from eating contaminated foods, such as:
- Raw meat or poultry – During the butchering process, raw meat and poultry can potentially come in contact with animal feces.
- Seafood – If harvested from contaminated water, fish and shellfish may harbor salmonella.
- Raw eggs – An infected chicken can produce eggs that are contaminated with salmonella before the impermeable eggshell forms.
- Fresh produce – Some fruits and vegetables may be hydrated in a field or processed with contaminated water.
Any type of food can become contaminated with salmonella if it is handled by an individual who didn’t wash his or her hands thoroughly after using a restroom or changing a diaper. Additionally, food can become cross-contaminated during the preparation process. For instance, placing ready-to-eat food on a surface that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs can spread bacteria. You can also become infected if you touch a contaminated animal, such as a farm animal, reptile or bird, and then touch your mouth.
What are the symptoms of a salmonella infection?
Many salmonella infections cause stomach flu (gastroenteritis), which may produce:
- Stomach cramps
- Watery diarrhea
- Bloody stool
- Fever and chills
Typically, most of these symptoms last between two and seven days. Diarrhea may linger for up to 10 days, and it can take several months for bowel function to completely return to normal.
After contracting a salmonella infection, it is important to drink plenty of water and stay well-hydrated because the associated diarrhea can lead to dehydration. In some cases, antibiotic treatment may be necessary to prevent serious complications, such as blood infection and irritable bowel syndrome. Certain individuals – including infants, young children, pregnant women, older adults, transplant recipients and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients — are especially at risk.
To learn how to protect yourself from contracting a salmonella infection during cancer treatment, you can talk with a specialist at Moffitt Cancer Center. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online to request an appointment. We do not require referrals.