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Salmonella sweeps the nation, with thousands of Americans reported sick and hundreds hospitalized. A total of six multi-state outbreaks were reported last month. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website lists over a dozen food cases, onions continue to be a problem with additional reports in November. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration concludes the onion salmonella outbreak is the largest in over a decade.
Overall, the cases include all U.S. states and most Canadian provinces, affecting a minimum of 1,600 people. The current outbreak affecting onions has sickened over 800 individuals and hospitalized at least 150.
Americans are advised to avoid onions from Chihuahua, Mexico, Citterio brand salami sticks, and seafood distributed by Northeast Seafood Products of Denver, Colorado. Last but not least, backyard poultry reaches a toll of 863 illnesses reported and two deaths. Death from salmonella is rare. Many cases can go unreported as most people are unaware of an infection. Causing them not to seek medical attention.
What Is Salmonella?
There are many types of salmonella. While the CDC reports as many as 2,500 have been categorized, less than under 100 are known to cause infections in humans.
Salmonella is infectious bacteria that causes those who come in contact to fall ill. Both humans and animals are susceptible to the virus. The most common gastrointestinal symptoms include diarrhea (which can be bloody), fever, and stomach cramps. Pets may also seem to be more tired than usual.
Detection is made through lab testing of body fluids, tissue, and stool. Most people in the United States infected with salmonella recover.
Other types, such as “Salmonella typhi and Salmonella paratyphi, which are not common in the United States, can cause the life-threatening illnesses typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever. Most people in the United States who have these types of infections acquire them while traveling abroad in areas where these diseases are common,” according to Everyday Health.
Contraction begins at contact with an infected source. Sources can be contaminated food, water, and animals along with their habitat. For example, backyard poultry is currently one of the leading causes of transmission. However, animals may appear healthy and clean while still carrying the bacteria. Researchers suggest limiting the contact of personal items when caring for animals to decrease contamination.
Parents of young children beware as experts warn children ages 5 and under are more likely to contract salmonella.
In addition, those taking certain medications such as stomach acid reducers, people with compromised immune systems, and older adults. The mortality rate increases up to 70% in nursing homes and hospital settings.
To limit the spread experts advise thorough hand washing after dealing with animals, their habitat, and food and water. Those who are ill should not prepare meals or beverages until symptoms have cleared.
Salmonella’s Long-Term Effects
Salmonella’s long-term effects can affect humans for several weeks or longer. Complications in some cases can lead to gastrointestinal diseases of the appendix, pancreas, and other parts of the GI tract.
With fever and diarrhea comes extreme dehydration, and in some cases can be severe. The aftermath of constant diarrhea can interrupt the normalcy of a person’s bowels. It can take up to a few months for the frequency and consistency of feces to return to normal.
Immunocompromised individuals, both old and young, are susceptible to more critical effects such as pneumonia, osteomyelitis, and meningitis. In addition, some may develop reactive arthritis after the salmonella infection has ended. Researchers state “Reactive arthritis usually resolves in 3 to 4 months, but approximately half of all patients experience transient relapses for several years.”
Septicemia is another risk related to the severe complications of the infection.
Treatment relies on antibiotics and overall wellness. However, studies have shown in some cases, antibiotic treatment can be contradicting. Due to the possibility of increased effects and a prolonged time frame of infection. Fluid intake, replacement of electrolytes, and other supportive care practices should increase to prevent extreme dehydration.
Seek medical attention if a high fever is present or other symptoms reach severity. Some people experiencing extreme effects may require surgery or lengthy antibiotic treatment.
People who are otherwise healthy when they are infected will likely heal without medical treatment. As salmonella sweeps the nation infections continue to rise, health officials warn the public to be aware of current outbreaks to remain safe from coming in contact with the infectious bacteria.
Written By Doneisha Jackson
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Salmonella
The Center for Food Security & Public Health: Salmonellosis
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: FDA In Brief: FDA Releases Investigation Report Following 2020 Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Red Onions
Everyday Health: What Is Salmonella? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention; by Katherine Lee; Medically Reviewed by Kareem Sassi, MD
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