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Infectious Diseases


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What is Salmonella?

Salmonella are a group of bacteria. When accidentally swallowed, these bacteria are capable of causing illness in humans and animals. This illness is commonly referred to as Salmonellosis.

How is Salmonella spread?

Most raw meats and their juices are contaminated with Salmonella bacteria, which are usually destroyed during cooking. You may become ill by eating undercooked chicken, beef or pork, raw or undercooked eggs and egg products, or drinking unpasteurized milk. ‘Ready-to-Eat’ foods, such as fruits or salad ingredients may become contaminated with the juices of raw meats during preparation.

Untreated or surface drinking water that has been contaminated with the stool of an infected animal or person may contain the Salmonella bacteria.

Some animals carry Salmonella bacteria without becoming sick. When you handle reptiles (including pet turtles, frogs, lizards, snakes, salamanders and iguanas) or animals such as baby chicks, infected puppies or kittens, and farm animals and their waste products you may be exposed to the bacteria.

You may be exposed to the bacteria if you are in contact with the stool of an infected person, child or infant (for example, during diaper changes) and then do not wash your hands well before touching your mouth, nose or eyes, or before preparing or eating food.

What symptoms should I watch for?

Most people experience a sudden onset of headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Fever is almost always present. Dehydration, especially among the very young or very old may be severe. Diarrhea often lasts for several days. These symptoms usually begin 6 hours to 3 days after you are exposed to the bacteria.

What is the treatment for Salmonella?

Consulting your health care provider is recommended as he/she may suggest antibiotics or treatment focused on symptoms, such as fluid replacement to prevent dehydration.

How do I protect myself and others?

  • Cook all meat, especially poultry and pork, thoroughly until juices run clear to destroy all the Salmonella bacteria present.

 Product  Celsius  Fahrenheit
 Whole Chicken/Turkey  82  180
 Poultry Breasts  74  165
 Pork  71  160
 Ground Meat  71-74  160-165
  • Clean and sanitize counter tops and utensils after contact with raw meats and poultry, especially before using these areas or utensils to prepare ready-to-eat foods, such as fruits or salad ingredients.
  • Avoid using raw eggs in eggnogs, salad dressings, ice cream and desserts. Never use cracked or dirty eggs. Cook all egg products thoroughly; eggs cooked “over easy” or “sunny side up” are incompletely cooked.
  • Drink only pasteurized milk and water from an approved or chemically treated source. If you are unsure of the safety of your water supply boil your water for 1 minute, or use an approved disinfectant.
  • Turtles, lizards, chicks and other exotic pets are not suitable pets for small children.
  • It is important to wash your hands before and after using the toilet, before preparing or eating meals, after changing diapers and after being in close contact with animals/reptiles.

Is there anything special I need to know?

If you are infected with Salmonella, and you provide services to others, particularly seniors or children, you should not go to work while you are having symptoms. Your employer will determine when it is safe for you to return to work. It is possible that even after you are feeling better you will still be shedding the bacteria in your stool for a period of time. To prevent spreading the disease to people around you, always practice good hand washing and hygiene.

For data on the incidence of Salmonella in Simcoe Muskoka and Ontario, please visit the Salmonellosis page on the health unit’s HealthSTATS site


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