Salmonella: recognize symptoms and prevent infections

Salmonella are bacteria named after American bacteriologist Daniel E. Salmon. Of the approximately 2, 600 known species, around 120 are capable of causing so-called salmonellosis, an infectious gastrointestinal inflammation in humans. The symptoms are varied and may be mild or - as in most cases - very severe. Salmonella infection can be extremely dangerous for infants, toddlers, pregnant women, elderly or sick people, and people with limited immune systems. However, in some cases there are no signs of disease at all, although Salmonella is present in the intestine and excreted in the stool.

Salmonella infection threatens everywhere

A salmonella infection is almost always due to the consumption of contaminated, so contaminated, food, usually in conjunction with poor hygiene. Salmonellosis causes headlines especially when many people get it at the same time. This happens again and again in public institutions with public catering such as kindergartens or nursing homes.

Of course, a salmonella infection can also occur in any private household. Although such a case is less spectacular and seldom becomes public, it is no less unpleasant or dangerous.

Whether public or private: Salmonellosis are among the notifiable diseases and must be reported by the attending physician to the health department.

What happens with an infection with Salmonella?

In a Salmonella poisoning, the ingested bacteria enter the intestinal mucosa and release cell toxins. As a result, the tissue in the small intestine and in the upper colon, inflamed, which can lead to severe gastrointestinal discomfort.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection

The incubation period for Salmonella infection is five to 72 hours. It depends on how many pathogens enter the body. Therefore, particularly pronounced, or even no symptoms can appear.

Salmonella can cause serious gastrointestinal disease in humans. Salmonellosis usually manifests itself by the following signs:

  • severe abdominal pain or cramps
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • Vomit
  • a headache
  • fever

In cases of diarrhea and / or vomiting, salmonellosis may cause fluid and electrolyte loss.

Complication as a result of salmonellosis

If the bacteria enter the bloodstream, complications may occur to the organs. Examples are meningitis, lung, kidney and liver abscesses or inflammation of joints and bones.

Chills, high fever, circulatory collapse and organ failure are symptoms of so-called salmonella sepsis. This is particularly dangerous for children and the elderly as well as for people with a weakened immune system. In extreme cases, Salmonella infection can be fatal.

More information about the dangers of salmonella can be found here.

Duration and history

Salmonella infection usually heals on its own after a few days without any lasting effects.

In severe cases, the disease may take longer and the infection must be treated in the hospital. However, this is the case only in about five percent of all patients.

However, you can still be contagious for several weeks after the symptoms have subsided.

Diagnosis of salmonella poisoning

A first suspected diagnosis can be made by the doctor based on the symptoms with the typical symptoms. For example, there are clear indications of diarrhea related to consumption or contact with certain foods, such as raw meat or eggs.

The detection of the bacteria is in most cases from the laboratory medical examination of the patient's chair. In the case of severe disease, the blood is also examined and, depending on the complication, other diagnostic methods are used.

Treat a salmonella infection

Salmonella poisoning - as well as all other diarrhea-related illnesses - makes balancing fluid and mineral loss particularly important. Therefore, the sufferer should drink plenty of water and tea. In addition, an electrolyte solution from the pharmacy can help restore the mineral balance.

In order not to irritate the gastrointestinal tract, sufferers should consume only gentle and easy to digest food during and shortly after the disease. Physical exertion should be avoided.

Young children, pregnant women and elderly and debilitated people should consult a doctor if diarrhea and vomiting persist for more than two or three days and if there is an additional high fever.

Salmonella Poisoning: When to the Hospital?

In case of severe illness with a large fluid loss, the patient must be treated with infusions in the hospital.

Treatment with antibiotics is also only possible in the case of severe Salmonella infection and possibly in high-risk patients such as the elderly, small children or people with a weakened immune system.

Mandatory registration for salmonellosis

Any suspicion of salmonellosis - of whatever type - must be reported to the health department, as the bacteria are contagious.

Persons working in public institutions such as schools or kindergartens or in food businesses may not be allowed to work in case of suspected salmonellosis. The start of the activity is only allowed again if no salmonella is detectable in three stool samples in a row.

Prevent salmonella: 15 rules

With the appropriate precautions and the observance of some things you can effectively protect yourself from salmonella. Here are the most important rules at a glance:

  1. Immediately place food such as raw meat and sausage products, eggs, seafood or ice cream in the refrigerator or freezer after shopping.
  2. Keep foods that may be carriers of salmonella, separate from other foods.
  3. Do not interrupt the cold chain even when transporting food.
  4. Ice cream, once it has thawed or thawed, do not freeze again and do not eat the ice when it is thawed or thawed.
  5. Thaw frozen meat in the fridge in a bowl and do not mix the thawing water with other foods.
  6. It is best to process minced meat on the shopping day.
  7. Prepare meat on a different surface than other foods.
  8. Use only fresh and well chilled eggs and consume raw eggs immediately after production.
  9. At breakfast egg cook the egg long enough at sufficiently high temperatures so that both egg whites and yolks are firm. Roast fried eggs on both sides for three minutes each (even if their appearance suffers).
  10. Heat foods with a high risk of Salmonella for at least ten minutes above 75 degrees Celsius and also thoroughly cook pre-cooked foods before consumption. Special care should be taken with meat dishes with stuffing, as fillings can absorb the salmonellae that live in the raw meat. Therefore, you should fill the roast just before the preparation and consider the resulting from the filling longer cooking time. Ideally, the internal temperature of the roast is measured with a meat thermometer before consumption. It should be at least 75 degrees Celsius.
  11. When cooking foodstuffs in the microwave, make sure that you have enough cooking time, as heating too quickly may leave "cold nests" in the food in which the pathogens can survive.
  12. Consume warm food within two hours after the last heating.
  13. Clean objects and work surfaces that have come into contact with foods such as raw meat thoroughly and at a sufficient temperature.
  14. Regularly wash your hands, especially after you have been in the bathroom and before and after the meal.
  15. Wash kitchen towels and kitchen towels regularly and at least 60 degrees Celsius.
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