What's your risk of salmonella poisoning?

Salmonella is not only spread through raw chicken.
Salmonella is not only spread through raw chicken.

Do you remember the last time you were perched on the toilet with an upset stomach? It’s not a pleasant feeling, and if you have ever suffered from food poisoning, you'll know this is many times worse. It can even be dangerous.

According to Health24, salmonella is one of the most common causes of foodborne illnesses.

In South Africa, as of 12 February 2016, a total of 30 typhoid fever case patients had been reported in five provinces across the South Africa. These cases were all caused by salmonella.

Acute poisoning is responsible for up to 17% of total ward admissions in children in South Africa, and in 2010, 5% of all deaths in South Africa were the result of food poisoning-related complications.

Unpleasant symptoms

This nasty pathogen can cause a lot of unpleasant symptoms, including diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and fever, typically lasting for four to seven days. And while foodborne illnesses in general have gone down in recent years, salmonella infections have increased, according to federal statistics.

Many cases are contracted from food eaten in restaurants, but salmonella can also be transmitted through common foods bought at stores and cooked at home. Infection is also more of a risk during warm weather when unrefrigerated foods at picnics and barbecues provide ideal conditions.

The culprits

Common to popular belief, salmonella isn't always spread by raw chicken.

Foods causing the most illnesses include eggs, sprouts and vine-stalk vegetables like tomatoes, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Next in line are beef, unpasteurised milk and juices, fish and poultry. You can also get salmonella from fruits like melons, nuts, cheese and even processed foods.

Avoid salmonella contamination 

To protect yourself, always thoroughly cook poultry, ground beef and eggs. Avoid recipes that call for raw eggs that can be as varied as homemade mayonnaise, Caesar and other salad dressings, ice creams and cake frostings with an uncooked egg base. This applies whether the uncooked eggs are whole or only the yolks or the whites, the CDC says.

Take care to avoid cross-contamination. Keep uncooked meats separate from produce, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods, and use a separate cutting board for trimming them. Wash your hands, all surfaces and utensils after contact with raw meat or poultry.

Also wash your hands after contact with pets – notably reptiles, tortoises and birds – as well as after cleaning a litter box or picking up dog poop.

By following these guidelines, your chances of getting those unwanted salmonella symptoms should be significantly reduced.

Image credit: iStock

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