One of the most common types of food-borne illness is Salmonella; it is a type of bacteria in food that has already been known for over 100 years. The source of Salmonella infection is contaminated food or water, or close contact with other human beings carrying the infection. The Salmonella family includes over 2300 types of bacteria which are tiny single-celled organisms. Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium account for nearly half of all human infections.
Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals including birds, and are transmitted by the alimentary canal. Humans may develop food poisoning from an animal origin (that is, if they drink milk or eat meat or eggs) which are contaminated with Salmonella bacteria from the alimentary canal of an infected animal. However all foods, including vegetables can become contaminated. Contaminated foods usually taste, smell, or appear normal.
Person-to-person transmission can also occur. Individuals who carry Salmonella in their intestines may transmit Salmonella to another individual if good personal hygiene is not followed. For example, an infected food handler may transmit the Salmonella bacteria if one does not wash his hands after using the restroom and before handling or preparing food. Transmission may also occur by handling pet turtles, baby chicks, frogs and snails that harbor the Salmonella bacteria. Salmonellosis is the disease that can occur if live Salmonella bacteria enter our bodies. This is caused usually through meat that is not properly cooked, cooked meat that is contaminated with bacteria when in contact with raw meat, or by milk that has not been pasteurized (unlikely since milk is pasteurized nowadays).
Although millions of people worldwide have suffered from Salmonella food poisoning, the illness can be easily prevented. Good personal hygiene practices could prevent the majority of these transmissions, such as washing your hands frequently. Frozen poultry must be thoroughly defrosted before cooking; otherwise, the inside of the bird may not get hot enough during cooking to kill the bacteria. Butchers and cooks should not handle cooked food at the same time as they handle raw meat.
The liquid which escapes when a frozen chicken is defrosted may contain Salmonella. The dishes and utensils used while defrosting should be washed thoroughly and not come into contact with other foods. Uncooked meat or poultry should not be kept alongside any food which is eaten raw. Previously cooked meat should never be warmed up since the increasing the temperature would increase production of bacteria. The meat should be either eaten cold or cooked at a high temperature to kill the bacteria.
Patients who suffer from salmonellosis, generally have symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. Additional symptoms may be chills, headaches, and nauseas. They all mostly occur from 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated food. Although these symptoms are unpleasant, many people ill with salmonellosis recover without treatment and never consult a doctor.
Still, one may ask how the bacteria can make us sick. The answer is that bacteria can grow on just about any food; moisture, warm temperatures and food are excellent conditions in which bacteria can grow and multiply. Moreover, the Salmonella bacteria attack our stomach and intestines. In serious cases, the bacteria may enter the lymph tracts, which carry water and protein to the blood, and the blood itself. The bacteria attack all age groups and both sexes. Elderly people or very young children, however, can be made very ill and life-threatening by food poisoning; this is due to their weak immune systems.
An increase in outbreaks of Salmonella food poisoning has been observed in the past few years, scientist suspect that this results from the practice of feeding antibiotics to farm animals to increase their growth rate. This could allow populations of drug-resistant Salmonellae to develop. By and large, although Salmonella food poisoning can be easily contracted, affecting numerous of people around the world yearly, as long as we practice basic hygiene procedures, prepare food in a proper manner, and enjoy a healthy living, we are all relatively insusceptible to the disease.