Last updated: January 6, 2023

What is Salmonellosis?

Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection of the intestines, and is caused by germs (bacteria) called Salmonella.

Who can get Salmonellosis?

Anyone can get a Salmonella infection. The incidence is highest in infants and young children; more than two out of every 1,000 babies younger than one year will get Salmonella annually. However, people of all ages can catch Salmonella. The illness is usually worse in very young and very old people.

How does one get Salmonellosis?

You can catch Salmonella infection by:

  • eating raw or undercooked foods, such as meat, poultry, or eggs;
  • eating cooked food that comes in contact with infected raw food;
  • eating or drinking items that an infected person has prepared;
  • having close contact with a person who has Salmonella; or
  • coming in contact with infected animals or their feces.

Salmonella are found in some raw foods and in feces. The bacteria can also be found in raw chicken, turkey, beef, pork and other meats, eggs or unpasteurized milk or cheese. Infected persons and pets (especially reptiles, iguanas, turtles, birds, ducks, and chickens) can also have Salmonella in their feces (stool). Infected persons may carry the bacteria in their feces for several weeks or more, even after symptoms have gone away.

What are the symptoms of Salmonellosis?

After an incubation period of 6–72 hours (but usually 12-36 hours), a person can have the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting

Symptoms can be mild or severe; some people catch Salmonella but have no symptoms at all. Symptoms commonly last for 2–7 days. Sometimes the blood or other body sites become infected.

How to Prevent Salmonellosis

  • Thoroughly cook meats, fish, poultry, and eggs.
  • Avoiding unpasteurized milk or cheese.
  • Eliminate cross-contamination from raw foods to cooked foods by thoroughly washing cutting boards, utensils, and hands after handling raw food and by discarding used packaging.
  • Thoroughly wash hands after using the restroom, changing diapers or touching pets. Wash hands before and after handling foods, cooking and eating.
  • Don’t use food preparation areas for bathing pets or children.
  • Use hand sanitizers when soap and water are not available.

See your doctor if you have diarrhea or possible salmonellosis.

  • Drink liquids to prevent dehydration. Antibiotics and other drugs are not usually recommended.
  • Food handlers, health care or day care workers, children in day care and their relatives who have salmonellosis should call the Department of Health at 410-222-7254 for specific recommendations.

Adapted from the Maryland Department of Health – Epidemiology and Disease Control Program.

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