In the bodies of domestic animals and birds, a bacteria called salmonellae is often present, although animals may not show any signs of infection. However, if a man eats the meat that is infected with salmonella, gastroenteritis and other unpleasant symptoms may occur. Salmonella can not be destroyed by deep freezing, and we can also find it in a fresh meat that looks ”safe”. But, salmonella can be destroyed by thorough cooking. Therefore, the infection can occur if the meat is not defrosted enough before cooking and if it is not thoroughly cooked.
Likewise, sometimes the meat after the slaughter does not freeze quickly enough, and because of that delay a small number of bacteria, which are usually found in meat, can multiply and infect meat.
Salmonella does not spread only with infected meat. Bacteria can transfer from one person to another by a physical contact (through the finger of a person who has been ”dealing” with infected meat or has recently overcome this disease).
The main symptom is diarrhea. Diarrhea is often accompanied by abdominal pain, vomiting and fever; sometimes there is blood in the stool. The type and degree of diarrhea vary widely: from just one or two soft stools per day to acute, watery diarrhea every 10-15 minutes. If it lasts for several hours, complete exhaustion and dehydration may occur. A relatively mild form of salmonella can often be mistakenly considered as gastroenteritis.
Apart from occasional small epidemics, salmonella is often not specifically identified since the stool of most people with “gastric disorders” is not analyzed. Therefore, no one knows how many cases of this disease are diagnosed as gastroenteritis.
If the bacteriae spread from the gastrointestinal tract to the bloodstream, they can be found in other organs – e.g. in the kidneys, gallbladder, heart or joints – and cause inflammation and abscess. However, this is rare. Most salmonella infections are mild and pass by themselves without treatment. In severe cases, excessive loss of body fluid due to frequent diarrhea can lead to death due to dehydration.
What to do?
If you have diarrhea that lasts longer than three days, or a fever with diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain, contact your doctor. We have described diagnostic tests in a gastroenteritis article. Remember that a newborn or a small child, who vomits or has a strong diarrhea, needs a medical attention within a few hours.
If the salmonella infection extends from the gastrointestinal tract, treatment will depend on the resulting disease – whether specific or general. Otherwise, treatment is exactly the same as for gastroenteritis and can be expected to be completely cured.
In very rare cases, even though a person has no problems with diarrhea and feels good and healthy, some of the live salmonella (bacteriae) may still be present in the digestive tract which, from time to time, are thrown out with a stool. These residual bacteria rarely remain in the digestive tract for more than three months, but they are a threat because they can convey the infection.
In that case you are a “germ carrier”, and your doctor will probably give you antibiotics. If you know that you have had salmonella, you should not only pay attention on the washing hands after using bathroom, but also occasionally go to a doctor who will, in the next few months, check if you still leave alive microorganisms.