What are salmonella infections?
Salmonella infection is caused by
the bacteria salmonella. Salmonella is a group of bacteria that can cause diarrhea in
humans. There are many different kinds of salmonella bacteria.
What causes salmonella infections?
This infection is caused by the
salmonella bacteria. The bacteria are passed from feces of people or animals to other
people or animals. Contaminated foods are often animal in origin. They include beef,
poultry, seafood, milk, or eggs. But all foods, including some unwashed fruits and
vegetables, can become contaminated.
Salmonella typhi is the one type of
salmonella that lives only in humans. It is passed only from human to human through
contaminated food or water. It tends to cause a serious and life-threatening infection
called typhoid fever. Treatment often needs antibiotics. A small number of people who
are treated may feel better after treatment. But they will continue to carry the
organism and pass it through their feces to others through contaminated food or
Who is at risk for salmonella infections?
Young children and older adults are
more at risk for getting salmonella. These factors can also raise your risk:
Eating raw or undercooked eggs,
poultry, and beef, or unwashed fresh fruits and vegetables, including raw alfalfa
Handling animals or pets, such as
turtles, snakes, and lizards
Taking medicines or having a condition that decreases stomach
Having a condition that weakens the immune system, such as
cancer, an organ transplant, or HIV/AIDS
Traveling to less developed parts of the world
What are the symptoms of salmonella infections?
Symptoms develop 12 to 72 hours
after infection. Each person may have different symptoms. But these are the most common
Nausea or vomiting
These symptoms may look like other
health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How are salmonella infections diagnosed?
Many different illnesses have
symptoms like salmonella. So diagnosis depends on lab tests that identify the bacteria
in your stool, blood, or other sites of infection.
How are salmonella infections treated?
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on
how severe the condition is.
infections often run their course in 4 to 7 days. Often no treatment is needed. But if
you have severe diarrhea, you may need rehydration with IV (intravenous) fluids and
antibiotics. You will also need prompt treatment with antibiotics if:
You have a weak immune system.
You are severely ill or are not getting better.
The infection spreads from the intestines to the
What are possible complications of salmonella
Most people recover fully from a
salmonella infection. The typhoid fever form of salmonella spreads to the bloodstream.
It can cause prolonged fever and weight loss. It can lead to death.
Salmonella can rarely spread to
other parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, spleen, and the central nervous
system. Some people may develop a condition called reactive arthritis weeks or even
months later. This is also known as Reiter's syndrome. It causes joint pain, eye
irritation, and painful urination.
Can salmonella infections be prevented?
Foods of animal origin pose the
greatest threat of salmonella contamination. So do not eat raw or undercooked eggs,
poultry, seafood, or meats. Remember that some sauces and desserts use raw eggs in their
preparation, so be cautious of these, particularly in foreign countries. Also, follow
these recommendations by the CDC:
Make sure all poultry, meats, seafood,
and eggs, are well-cooked. Cook food containing any of these ingredients to an
internal temperature of 165° F (73.8° C).
Don't drink raw or unpasteurized milk
or other dairy products.
Don't eat raw or undercooked eggs.
Throw away cracked eggs. Keep eggs refrigerated.
Thoroughly wash produce before eating
Don't cross-contaminate foods. Keep
uncooked meats separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods.
Thoroughly wash all utensils,
including cutting boards, knives, and counters, after handling uncooked foods.
Thoroughly wash hands before handling
foods and between handling different food items.
Thoroughly wash hands after contact
Thoroughly wash hands after handling
any reptiles or birds. These animals are more likely to carry salmonella.
No vaccine can prevent usual cases of salmonella infection. But there
is a typhoid fever vaccine. It is often advised for people travelling to high risk areas
of the world. Always talk with your healthcare provider at least 4 to 8 weeks before
traveling outside the U.S. to see if you need any preventive vaccines or other
When should I call my healthcare provider?
If your symptoms get worse or you
get new symptoms, let your healthcare provider know. If your diarrhea lasts more than a
few days or gets worse, you may get dehydrated and need IV fluids and antibiotics.
Key points about salmonella infections
Salmonella infections are caused by
the bacteria salmonella. They generally cause diarrhea.
Salmonella can also cause typhoid
fever. It can spread to other parts of the body.
Symptoms of a salmonella infection
usually include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, chills, headache, nausea, or
Treatment may not be needed unless
dehydration happens or the infection doesn't get better. You may also need treatment
if it spreads to the blood or other body parts, or if you have a weak immune
Prevention includes cooking foods
fully; staying away from raw milk and eggs; and washing food, utensils, hands, and
kitchen surfaces properly.
There is a vaccine for international
travelers to help prevent typhoid fever.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Barry Zingman MD
Online Medical Reviewer:
L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer:
Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed:
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.