What is salmonellosis?
Salmonellosis is an infection with bacteria called Salmonella. Most persons infected with
Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The
illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment. However, in some
persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these
patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then
to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe

How can Salmonella infections be diagnosed?
Many different kinds of illnesses can cause diarrhea, fever, or abdominal cramps. Determining
that Salmonella is the cause of the illness depends on laboratory tests that identify Salmonella in
the stool of an infected person.  

Are there long term consequences to a Salmonella infection?
Persons with diarrhea usually recover completely, although it may be several months before their
bowel habits are entirely normal. A small number of persons with Salmonella develop pain in
their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. This is called Reiter's syndrome. It can last
for months or years, and can lead to chronic arthritis which is difficult to treat. Antibiotic treatment
does not make a difference in whether or not the person develops arthritis.

How do people catch Salmonella?
Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Salmonella
are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces.
Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal. Contaminated foods are often of animal
origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but any food, including vegetables, may become
contaminated. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella. Food may also become contaminated by the
hands of an infected food handler who did not wash hands with soap after using the bathroom.

Salmonella may also be found in the feces of some pets, especially those with diarrhea, and
people can become infected if they do not wash their hands after contact with pets or pet feces.
Reptiles, such as turtles, lizards, and snakes, are particularly likely to harbor Salmonella.  Many
chicks and young birds carry Salmonella in their feces. People should always wash their hands
immediately after handling a reptile or bird, even if the animal is healthy. Adults should also
assure that children wash their hands after handling a reptile or bird, or after touching its

What can a person do to prevent this illness?
There is no vaccine to prevent salmonellosis. Because foods of animal origin may be
contaminated with Salmonella, people should not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or
meat. Raw eggs may be unrecognized in some foods, such as homemade Hollandaise sauce,
Caesar and other homemade salad dressings, tiramisu, homemade ice cream, homemade
mayonnaise, cookie dough, and frostings. Poultry and meat, including hamburgers, should be
well-cooked, not pink in the middle. Persons also should not consume raw or unpasteurized milk
or other dairy products. Produce should be thoroughly washed.

Cross-contamination of foods should be avoided. Uncooked meats should be kept separate
from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods. Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives,
and other utensils should be washed thoroughly after touching uncooked foods. Hand should be
washed before handling food, and between handling different food items.

People who have salmonellosis should not prepare food or pour water for others until their
diarrhea has resolved.  Many health departments require that restaurant workers with
Salmonella infection have a stool test showing that they are no longer carrying the Salmonella
bacterium before they return to work.

People should wash their hands after contact with animal feces. Because reptiles are
particularly likely to have Salmonella, and it can contaminate their skin, everyone should
immediately wash their hands after handling reptiles. Reptiles (including turtles) are not
appropriate pets for small children and should not be in the same house as an infant.  
Salmonella carried in the intestines of chicks and ducklings contaminates their environment and
the entire surface of the animal. Children can be exposed to the bacteria by simply holding,
cuddling, or kissing the birds. Children should not handle baby chicks or other young birds.  
Everyone should immediately wash their hands after touching birds, including baby chicks and
ducklings, or their environment.

How common is salmonellosis?
Every year, approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States.
Because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections may
be thirty or more times greater. Salmonellosis is more common in the summer than winter.

Children are the most likely to get salmonellosis.  The rate of diagnosed infections in children
less than five years old is about five times higher than the rate in all other persons.  Young
children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised are the most likely to have severe infections.
It is estimated that approximately 400 persons die each year with acute salmonellosis.

What else can be done to prevent salmonellosis?
It is important for the public health department to know about cases of salmonellosis. It is
important for clinical laboratories to send isolates of Salmonella to the City, County, or State
Public Health Laboratories so the specific type can be determined and compared with other
Salmonella in the community. If many cases occur at the same time, it may mean that a
restaurant, food or water supply has a problem that needs correction by the public health

Some prevention steps occur everyday without you thinking about it. Pasteurization of milk and
treatment of municipal water supplies are highly effective prevention measures that have been in
place for decades. In the 1970s, small pet turtles were a common source of salmonellosis in the
United States, so in 1975, the sale of small turtles was banned in this country. However, in 2008,
they were still being sold, and cases of Salmonella associated with pet turtles have been
reported.  Improvements in farm animal hygiene, in slaughter plant practices, and in vegetable
and fruit harvesting and packing operations may help prevent salmonellosis caused by
contaminated foods. Better education of food industry workers in basic food safety and
restaurant inspection procedures may prevent cross-contamination and other food handling
errors that can lead to outbreaks. Wider use of pasteurized egg in restaurants, hospitals, and
nursing homes is an important prevention measure. In the future, irradiation or other treatments
may greatly reduce contamination of raw meat.

Salmonella infections
Salmonella is actually a group of
bacteria that can cause diarrheal
illness in humans. They are
microscopic living creatures that
pass from the feces of people or
animals to other people or other
animals. There are many different
kinds of Salmonella bacteria.

Salmonella serotype Typhimurium
and Salmonella serotype Enteritidis
are the most common in the United
States. Salmonella germs have been
known to cause illness for over 100
years. They were discovered by an
American scientist named Salmon,
for whom they are named.