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What You Need to Know

What is salmonellosis?

Salmonellosis is an infection caused by Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella bacteria naturally live in the intestines and feces (poop) of many animals, including reptiles, poultry, and other livestock, such as pigs and cows. People can get Salmonella bacteria from animals in different ways, including eating food that has been contaminated with animal poop.

Salmonellosis is one of the most common gastrointestinal infections reported in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that every year in the United States:

  • 1.35 million people get sick from salmonellosis

  • 26,500 people are hospitalized because of salmonellosis

  • 420 people die from salmonellosis

Salmonellosis in California

About 5,000 salmonellosis cases are reported each year in California. However, it is estimated that only 1 of every 29 people who are infected with Salmonella bacteria seek medical care and are diagnosed with salmonellosis. So in California, there may be as many as 145,000 people getting salmonellosis every year!

What are the symptoms of salmonellosis?

Most people who get salmonellosis will have diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Symptoms can appear within 6 hours to 6 days after getting infected with Salmonella. Most people recover within 4 to 7 days without treatment.  But for some people, salmonellosis can be very serious and even deadly. In rare cases, Salmonella infection can cause long-lasting symptoms such as joint pain, eye irritation, and painful urination.

How can I get salmonellosis?

You can get infected with Salmonella bacteria in different ways, but the two most common ways include:
  • Eating or drinking contaminated food or drinks  People usually get salmonellosis by eating or drinking raw or undercooked food or drinks that are contaminated with animal poop. These often include animal food products like beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but any food (including seafood, fruits, vegetables, and processed foods) may become contaminated. These foods usually look and smell normal but can be contaminated with small particles of animal poop containing Salmonella bacteria that can make a person sick. Food may also become contaminated by the hands of an infected person who did not properly wash their hands after using the toilet. 
Foods that are often implicated in outbreaks of Salmonella: poultry, eggs, nut butters, sprouts, tomatoes, papaya, and canteloup

Any food can be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Examples of food that have been contaminated and made people sick include: poultry, eggs, peanut butter, sprouts, tomatoes, papaya, and cantaloupe. 

  • Touching animals, animal poop, or animal areas and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth — People can also get salmonellosis from direct or indirect contact with animals, including household pets and pet food and treats:
      • Farm animals (including cows, goats, pigs, and sheep)
      • Reptiles and amphibians, such as turtles, lizards, snakes, and frogs
      • Poultry (chicks, chickens, duckling, ducks) and other birds
      • Pet food and treats such as dry kibble, frozen mice, and pig ears
Animals that may be infected with Salmonella: pigs, goats, baby chicks, turtles, and bearded dragons

Animals may appear healthy but can still have Salmonella in their poop. People can become infected if they do not wash their hands after contact with pets, animal poop, pet food and treats, or areas where pets live (including cages, tanks, animal pens, or animal bedding).

Salmonellosis Outbreaks

When two or more people get sick with the same strain of Salmonella after eating the same food, this is called a foodborne outbreak of salmonellosis. Foodborne outbreaks of salmonellosis have been linked to foods that are widely distributed in the U.S., such as chicken, eggs, ground beef, tomatoes, peanut butter, and cantaloupes. Salmonellosis outbreaks can also happen when two or more people get sick after being exposed to infected animals from the same source (such as the same breeder), including baby turtles, chicks, and bearded dragons.

Learn more about recent salmonellosis outbreaks
Learn more about foodborne illnesses and outbreaks

What can I do to protect my family and myself from salmonellosis?

Anyone can get salmonellosis, but certain groups of people are more likely to get very sick if they get infected with Salmonella bacteria:

      • Pregnant women
      • Children under the age of 5 years
      • Adults aged 65 years and older
      • People with certain medical conditions that weaken the immune system (such as diabetes or cancer)

People in these groups must be especially careful to avoid and prevent salmonellosis.

There are things you can do to help prevent salmonellosis and keep you and your loved ones safe:

Keep your hands clean:

Wash hands with soap and water and scrub them together for at least 20 seconds (be sure to help children wash their hands):

  • Before preparing or eating food

  • After using the toilet

  • After changing diapers or cleaning up someone who has used the toilet

  • Before and after caring for someone who has diarrhea

  • After touching or handling reptiles (such as turtles, lizards, and snakes), live poultry (such as birds, chicks, and ducklings), amphibians (frogs), or any areas where these animals live

  • After touching animals or being in animal areas at petting zoos, farms, fairs, or even your own backyard

Practice the four steps of food safety:

Four steps to food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill
  1. Clean
    • Wash your hands, utensils, and the surfaces where you prepare food with soap and water, especially after touching raw meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood.

    • Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before eating, even if they will be peeled.

    • Do not wash raw poultry, meat, or eggs before cooking. Washing can spread germs to other food and surfaces. Proper cooking of these foods will kill any germs that can make you sick.

  2. Separate
    • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from ready-to-eat foods, such as salads and deli meat.

    • Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce and for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.

    • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

  3. Cook
    • Heat food to the right temperature to kill any germs that can make you sick. Use a food thermometer to be sure that meat has been cooked to the correct temperature. Do not eat raw or undercooked meat.

    • Do not eat or drink foods containing raw (unpasteurized) milk or raw eggs.

  4. Chill
    • Refrigerate food right away to prevent germs from growing in your food.

    And remember, don't cook or serve food for others if you have diarrhea!

What is the California Department of Public Health doing about salmonellosis?

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and local health departments monitor salmonellosis in California because it is a disease that can be easily spread to other people. Food that is contaminated with Salmonella can be widely distributed and cause illness throughout California and nationwide. CDPH and local health departments monitor for outbreaks and investigate them to find a common source and take measures to prevent ongoing infections.

Healthcare providers are required to report cases of salmonellosis to their local health department. In addition, local health departments may limit the activities of people with salmonellosis from certain work or activities (such as food handling, health care, or day care) until they have been examined and cleared by their local health department. 

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