What is Salmonella?
Salmonellosis is a form of gastroenteritis caused by eating foods contaminated with salmonella bacteria (salmonella enteritis) that results in abdominal pain, vomiting, fever and diarrhea. It is characterized by an incubation period of 6 to 48 hours. Symptoms usually last 4 to 7 days. To prevent salmonellosis, it is important to take care of the preparation of the meals, the cooling of the food and the proper washing of the hands.
Salmonellas are bacteria that are mainly found in animals. But they can also be found in people. There are many kinds of salmonella that cause disease in humans. In addition to salmonellosis produced by salmonellae, also called salmonella enteritis, in which the infection is confined to the intestinal tract (from Latin enteritis, inflammation of the intestine), salmonellas are also responsible for serious general infections such as typhus and paratippes. In the case of these two latter diseases it is salmonella in the broadest sense of the word (diseases caused by salmonella bacteria). Salmonella is commonly referred to as the form of the disease that causes enteritis. In all cases of salmonella, it is obligatory to notify the authorities.
Salmonella can be caused by an individualized or frequent infection (for example, in the family) but also to become a collective outbreak. Often, kindergartens and nursing homes suffer from an attack of salmonella enteritis. The cause is usually food poisoning caused by a lack of hygiene or improper preparation of the food. The characteristic symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection caused by a salmonella are diarrhea, stomach pain, vomiting, fever and headache.
The diagnosis of a salmonella is made with the test of the causative pathogen. For this, analyzes of faeces, rectal swabs and analysis of vomiting are performed. The treatment of a salmonella infection is mainly aimed at restoring the fluid and minerals lost during the disease and only in severe cases antibiotics are prescribed.
Salmonella can be avoided mainly by attending to these two things: hygiene and a correct preparation of food. To mitigate the danger of contagion that is linked to salmonella, it is very important to wash your hands well after going to the bathroom. When buying food, it is advisable to check that the cold chain and expiration date are correct.When cooking poultry, eggs or dairy products you should always boil them well (be careful: it will only remove bacteria from salmonella With a temperature that reaches more than 70º C and allowing them to boil for at least ten minutes).
What is the definition of salmonella?
Salmonella is caused by bacteria that can trigger salmonellosis in humans (salmonella enteritis), a disease with infectious diarrhea that is confined to the intestinal tract (enteritis, intestinal infection).
The salmonellas that cause the infection are a genus of bacteria called equals, salmonella, with two forms of which there are approximately 2,500 variants. 120 variants can make people only sick. As animals can also be infected with salmonella, which can also be transmitted to humans, salmonella is a disease called zoonosis(disease that can pass from animal to human).
In addition to salmonella enteritis that only affects the intestinal tract, salmonella can also cause serious general infections such as typhus. Consequently, these two pathologies fall within the broader meaning of diseases caused by salmonella. Usually, when speaking of salmonella, only the form of enteritis of the infection is commonly referred to as salmonella enteritis.
It is the most widespread form and represents 50% of the diseases with more frequent vomiting and diarrhea produced by a bad state of food. In the summer months, salmonella enteritis is more common, especially in young children.
What are the causes of salmonella?
Salmonellosis caused by salmonellas (salmonella enteritis) that affects the human being is usually caused by food infections. Pathogens (salmonellas) that cause poor food status are bacteria that exist in both man and animals. These can be reproduced with oxygen (aerobic) and without it (anaerobic). Normally, our acidic gastric juice kills the pathogens, so that a salmonella is necessary a great number of germs (in adults between 10,000 and 10.000.000 of salmonellas). However, when gastric acid is low or the body’s immune system is weakened, it is possible that less than 100 (less than 100 salmonellas) may already cause infection. In these circumstances, the danger of contagion of salmonella is very high. Salmonellas that pass from the stomach to the intestine produce infection of the large and small intestine. Pathogens enter the cells of the intestinal mucosa and damage it by releasing toxic substances (toxins). That is why salmonella is also called intestinal toxic infection.
The time between incubation and the eruption of a salmonella infection (salmonella enteritis) is very short, unlike what occurs with typhus, also caused by salmonella. It depends on the amount of bacteria that have entered the body and usually lasts from a few hours to three days, maximum seven.
Salmonella caused by salmonella bacteria (salmonella enteritis) is very contagious, and may be caused by various routes of contact. Salmonella is always introduced into the human body through the mouth.
The main cause of this disease in humans are animals or food infected with salmonella and in infrequent cases can also appear by contagion of another person:
- Food poisoning: This is the most common cause of contagion with salmonella which is caused by lack of hygiene or improper preparation of the food (not sufficiently cooked). The most dangerous foods are those rich in protein, such as meat, milk and eggs, as they are the most easily contagious of salmonella when hygiene is not enough and are the main source of contagion, especially eggs and meat of frozen bird. Salmonellas can survive for several months, so they do not die in freezing food. Also foods that do not originally contain salmonella can be the cause of an infection if they come in contact with infected people, dirty surfaces or contaminated food.
- Contact with animals: Direct contact with animals that excrete salmonella are a rare cause of contagion. This form of contagion is rather possible in companion animals. Salmonella is frequently present in the gastrointestinal tract of reptiles that trigger the disease without symptoms. Babies and young children are the weakest and most likely to get salmonella enteritis.
- Person-to-person contagion: Salmonella can be spread from person to person in specific cases, such as an inpatient with a weakened immune system or if hygiene is not adequate in the hospital. But also in the normal day to day, the salmonella can be transmitted from one person to another.
What are the symptoms of salmonella?
In general, in the case of salmonellosis caused by salmonellas (salmonella enteritis) the symptoms appear suddenly. The characteristic symptoms of a salmonella disease are watery diarrhea, malaise, severe stomach pains, vomiting and headaches. Fever may also occur. Just a few hours after having a salmonella infection, the general state of health is already very deteriorated and those affected feel really sick.
Symptoms usually go away soon. Diarrhea ceases to occur after two to three days from the onset of salmonella infection, in infrequent cases at most one week. Patients recover soon, as soon as the balance of fluid loss caused by salmonella is restored.
How is salmonella treated?
The treatment of salmonellosis produced by salmonella (salmonella enteritis) is mainly aimed at restoring the loss of fluids and electrolytes caused by vomiting and diarrhea. Here it is important to monitor circulatory functions. In addition to compensating for the loss of water and mineral content, maintaining an especially careful cleanliness will promote healing.
It is not always advisable to take antibiotics to combat salmonella, since with an antibiotic treatment does not shorten the period of illness nor the symptoms of it. Therefore, antibiotic treatment is only reserved for newborns.
Process of salmonella
If salmonellosis caused by salmonella (salmonella enteritis) continues its normal course, the symptoms of the infection last between two and three days and only in infrequent cases a week. As soon as the fluid loss caused by vomiting and diarrhea is restored, recovery is very rapid. While salmonellas are in the feces, the danger of contagion has not disappeared, even though salmonellosis has already remitted. The elimination of salmonella lasts between three and six weeks; In the case of infants, it may take several months. A discharge of feces with salmonellas that are more than six months old is relatively uncommon.
If salmonella gives way to acute salmonellosis (salmonella enteritis), several complications can appear as the disease evolves. Severe diarrhea, especially accompanied by simultaneous vomiting and insufficient fluid intake, leads to dehydration of the body. The symptoms are dry tongue, sunken eyes, aphonia, lowering of blood pressure and cramps in the calves. This lack of fluid is an especially dangerous risk for infants and the elderly. Loss of fluid can lead to blood concentration and lead to thrombosis. In some cases (between 1 and 4%), salmonellas can reach the bloodstream and lead to blood poisoning (sepsis).
Salmonellosis caused by untreated salmonella (salmonella enteritis) can lead to death in very debilitated persons. The mortality rate varies between <1% in gastrointestinal forms, up to 15% in the elderly.
How to prevent salmonellosis?
You can prevent salmonellosis caused by salmonella (salmonella enteritis) by paying special attention to two things: hygiene and proper preparation of food. In the private setting, it is sufficient to maintain proper personal hygiene to prevent other people in the family or the couple from becoming infected with salmonella. To avoid a salmonella enteritis, it is especially important to wash your hands well after you have been in the bathroom.
When buying food, check that the cold chain and expiration date are correct. This will prevent salmonella. In addition, it is also advisable to eat foods that are soon to expire. When preparing the food, make sure that both poultry meat and chicken eggs and dairy products cook long enough: it will only remove the bacteria from salmonella with a temperature that reaches more than 70 ° C and allowing them to boil for at least ten minutes. In general, the best way to avoid salmonella is to maintain excellent hygiene conditions in the food industry and industrial kitchens. People suffering from salmonella poisoning should not handle any food professionally because even if they have been infected with salmonella, this does not mean that they are immune to other salmonella infections. There is no vaccine that prevents salmonella as a prophylactic measure.