Salmonella: everything you need to know

 Salmonella: Everything you need to know

What is salmonella bacteria? Is it related to salmon (salmon)? What are the symptoms of the disease? In what foods can this bacterium appear? How dangerous is salmonella and who is at risk? How can you protect yourself from it?

Every year, millions of people around the world fall ill with salmonellosis, which is caused by various types of Salmonella bacteria.

Salmonella infections can be mild and even invisible, but can sometimes develop into severe and life-threatening forms.

Compliance with hygiene rules and proper preparation of meat – ironclad rules for protection against salmonellosis. There is a vaccine for those who fly to third world countries.

So what is salmonella and is there a link between it and fish?

No , there is no link between salmonellosis and red fish. Salmonella — a bacterium named after the American veterinarian Daniel Elmer Salmon, who first discovered it (along with epidemiologist Theobald Smith) in 1885. This bacterium multiplies in the digestive tract of animals and humans and is released into the environment.

There are over 2,500 different types of Salmonella bacteria, divided into approximately 7 major subgroups. Every year, millions of people around the world become infected with salmonellosis, but only a few types of bacteria cause disease in humans.

How do you get infected with salmonellosis?

In developed countries, outbreaks are associated with the consumption of salmonella-contaminated foods, mainly chicken products (eggs and chicken meat), but also beef, fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized dairy products. The bacterium multiplies in contaminated foods, and at some point it becomes widespread in contaminated foods to cause clinical disease.

Another route of infection – contact with infected animals or their secretions. Reptile pets such as turtles, lizards and iguanas are a significant source of infection, but mammals can also be infectious.

In third world countries where sanitation and sewage development are very poor, contamination also occurs from water sources contaminated by man-made sewage.

What are the symptoms of salmonellosis infection?

Salmonella bacteria can cause a number of diseases, the most common of which is gastroenteritis. This is a gastrointestinal infection, the main symptom of which is diarrhea, sometimes even bloody diarrhea.

In addition, as with any gastroenteritis, even if it is not caused by a Salmonella infection, there may be abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting, as well as headaches and muscle pain.

These symptoms appear within 6 minutes 48 hours after contact with the bacterium and usually resolve on their own within 3 to 7 days. The disease is more common during the summer months.

How is gastroenteritis treated?

The disease usually resolves on its own, and only supportive care, which includes drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, can be used. In special situations, such as an illness in an infant or an immunosuppressed person, or an illness that has spread beyond the intestines, antibiotic treatment should be given, and sometimes treatment also requires hospitalization.

What other illnesses may cause salmonella?

x typhoid fever (Enteric fever, Typhoid Fever). It is a disease with a prolonged fever that affects many body systems. It is caused by a certain type of salmonella that does not occur in the country. Typhoid fever cases in Israel are almost always travelers returning from third world countries, especially East Asia.

This type of Salmonella infection comes from humans and their excretions, not from animals.
< br /> Infection of the blood (sepsis) and/or of the heart (including heart valves). Such an infection is rare.

x Pinpoint infection in specific places such as bones, joints, nervous system. Like blood poisoning, these are also rare but serious diseases that require hospitalization for diagnosis and treatment.

• The state of chronic infection without clinical manifestations. This is a condition in which an infected person continues to shed the bacterium in their faeces for a long time and can contaminate the environment without showing any symptoms.

The use of antibiotics for acute diarrhea increases the risk of chronic infection, so if possible, avoid prescribing antibiotics to those who have contracted salmonellosis. it doesn't matter if the inflammation was caused by salmonella or some other pathogen.

Who is at higher risk of serious illness?

The disease can be especially dangerous for infants under one year of age, adults 50 years of age and older (especially if they have an underlying disease such as atherosclerosis or heart valve disease), pregnant women, and people who are immunosuppressed due to treatment or disease.< br />
When should I see a doctor?

As with any diarrheal illness, see your doctor if you have recurring diarrhea, if you have a fever for more than 3-4 days, if you are sick because you are unable to drink, or if you are at risk for a serious illness.
How is salmonellosis diagnosed?< br />
Diagnosis is by faecal analysis or molecular methods (PCR). Most laboratories now use PCR, and the answer comes two days after the stool sample is sent. The disease requires a report to the Ministry of Health.

How is the disease prevented?

In the food industry, through strict adherence to the procedures of the Ministry of Health regarding the storage and processing of food products, as well as regular infection checks. The Ministry of Health regularly checks factories in Israel and imported food products for infections.

At home, by observing the rules of hygiene: washing hands before eating, after using the toilet, after contact with animals.
Both in the food industry and at home, keeping food in the right conditions: keeping it in the refrigerator, thoroughly cooking chicken, meat and fish, keeping work surfaces clean after food has been processed.

Important note : do not wash raw eggs in shell! Washing eggs can cause the shell to crack and bacteria to enter the egg.
When visiting third world countries – avoid eating in street stalls or cafeterias; be sure to drink boiled water or water from closed bottles. Make sure food is cooked or boiled.


There is an injection vaccine available for those traveling to countries at high risk. The dead vaccine is directed against the bacterium that causes typhoid fever. The vaccine is effective for about two years and is about 70% effective. The vaccine is administered at travel clinics.

Dr. Bat-Sheva Gotsman — Senior Physician of the Infectious Diseases Department of the Hospital "Meir" Clalit groups.

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