There’s Been a Salmonella Outbreak. Now What?

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Salmonella poisoning is no joke. In fact, it’s a potentially life-threatening situation. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the bacteria known as salmonella causes approximately 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths in the U.S. every year.

Signs and Symptoms

Salmonella is sneaky. You can’t see it. You can’t smell it. And it doesn’t change the taste of food. It’s not until you start experiencing symptoms that you find out you’ve been exposed to it.

Symptoms typically present eight to 72 hours after infection and include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Treatment

In most cases, the illness lasts four to 10 days and is treated with oral fluid and electrolyte replacement. If the diarrhea is severe enough, hospitalization and antibiotics may be required. However, antibiotics are only considered in patients who are severely ill or are at high risk for severe illness including infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

Prevention

Here’s what you need to know about salmonella to stay safe during this and future outbreaks:

  • Cook as directed. Avoid raw or under-cooked poultry, meat or eggs when cooking or eating. Be careful what you order when eating out, as raw egg is a common ingredient in many dishes – hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, tiramisu, cookie dough and more. When cooking meat at home, use a meat thermometer to ensure that it is cooked to the proper temperature.
  • Avoid cross contamination. When cooking, be careful that juices from raw meat or eggs do not come into contact with cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Wash fresh produce as well, as some outbreaks of salmonella have been associated with foodstuff that you may not cook like lettuce and spinach. Use separate plates for uncooked and cooked foods and clean utensils as you go. Remember, anything that touches raw meat (even marinade) shouldn’t touch cooked foods.
  • Wash your hands. Handwashing is the easiest way to prevent the spread of infection. Make a habit of washing your hands with warm water and soap before eating, after using the restroom and when your hands are visibly dirty.
  • Be informed. Listen to the news and check the CDC website for information about salmonella outbreaks and what products to avoid. If any of these products are present in your home, throw them away immediately.

Although many of these tips seem like common sense, it’s important to stay vigilant and informed to keep you and your family healthy. It’s better to play it safe and avoid any food product the CDC recalls.