Salmonella: The underrated danger

Salmon with home-made mayonnaise, tiramisu, stuffed chicken: lots of meals that, in addition to almost inevitable weight gain, harbor a potential danger - Salmonella infection. What exactly salmonella are and how dangerous they really are, we explain here.

What are Salmonella?

Salmonella are rod-shaped bacteria of the enterobacteria family and are among the most common pathogens worldwide. Salmonella can be a cause of illness in both humans and animals.

Salmonella-induced infectious gastrointestinal inflammation is called salmonellosis. In addition to poor hygiene or contaminated drinking water, Salmonella infected foods can cause salmonellosis. Therefore, this can also be called a food infection.

There are more than 2, 500 types of Salmonella. The most common diseases caused by Salmonella in humans are vomiting diarrhea caused by Salmonella enteritidis and salmonella typhimurium, typhoid fever by salmonella typhi and paratypus by salmonella paratyphi.

Salmonellosis is one of the notifiable diseases in Germany. Each year, about 16, 000 people fall ill with salmonellosis. However, experts estimate the number of unreported cases higher.

Salmonella - stubborn bacteria

Salmonella survive outside the human - or animal - body over weeks. In dried feces, they are even detectable for over two and a half years. The bacteria like it warm and humid. Under these conditions, they multiply at a rapid rate.

Heat and sunlight or UV radiation accelerate the dying of the pathogens. Freezing does not kill Salmonella, but bacteria multiply more slowly at temperatures below six degrees Celsius.

Infection by food

Salmonella is commonly transmitted via animal foods. Especially often the pathogens are found on the following foods:

  • raw or not fully cooked eggs and egg dishes such as mayonnaise or tiramisu
  • raw meat such as pork, chicken or other poultry
  • Raw sausages like Mett
  • seafood
  • ice cream

The insidious thing about salmonella is that the food seems normal even in extreme bacterial conditions. Because you can not see, smell or taste the bacteria.

Avoid salmonella infection over food

To avoid Salmonella infection, foods such as raw chicken meat should be heated to 75 degrees Celsius core temperature for at least ten minutes. At 55 degrees Celsius, it takes an hour before the risk of Salmonella infection has been adequately reduced.

Also risky are foods that contain raw eggs. What makes raw eggs so dangerous, in particular, is that the Salmonella on the eggshell rapidly multiply outside the cold temperatures of the refrigerator and do not strive without heat. In addition, the older the egg, the more porous the shell becomes and the easier it is for salmonella to get inside the egg. Therefore, you should only use fresh eggs for the preparation of food with raw eggs, then store them as cold as possible and eat quickly.

Infection due to poor hygiene

An unhygienic, too hot or too long storage of food as well as a broken cold chain during the transport of the food favor the propagation of Salmonella. By touching or processing infected foods, other foods as well as objects or humans may be attacked by salmonella.

A human-to-human transmission is possible but rare. A Salmonella infection by human contact is then done via a smear infection: The pathogens from the intestine are passed over the smallest stool residues in the hands of the infected to other people. Salmonella then gets into the mouth of the hand and causes an infection.

Risk groups for salmonellosis

Up to a certain number of germs, the human organism can cope with these. From a number of 10, 000 to 1, 000, 000 germs, however, the body is no longer against them - you then suffer significantly from an infection. The higher the number of bacteria, the heavier the disease process.

Infants and children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to infection. Here already less than 100 germs can trigger such. People with reduced gastric acid production are also at particular risk, as more salmonella can enter the intestine in such cases.

How dangerous are salmonella?

Salmonella poisoning can cause severe gastrointestinal (gastroenteritis) and typhus or paratyphoid fever. Salmonellosis usually manifests itself as severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever, and can lead to death in children and sick or elderly people in extreme cases. However, it can happen that you do not feel any symptoms despite the infection.

The salmonella pathogens of typhus and paratyphoid enter the bloodstream via the intestine, causing the entire body to be attacked by the bacteria. The result is often a blood poisoning (sepsis), which can also be fatal.

Important: If salmonella suspected go to the doctor

Even if the salmonella infection subsides in most cases after about a week, going to the doctor is important. Diarrhea causes the loss of fluids and minerals that must be replaced.

A laboratory medical examination of stool samples allows the detection of Salmonella. Stool examinations are also required for follow-up - until three samples are free of pathogens in succession. Because even after the symptoms have faded away, you can still be contagious for several weeks.

Salmonellosis in pregnancy

If pregnant women have been infected with salmonellosis, there is a risk of premature birth. A severe disease course of infection can generally pose a risk to the baby's health.
Therefore, and especially in this case, a medical treatment is absolutely necessary.

Precaution - 7 tips to protect you from salmonella

One can protect oneself above all by good hygiene in the kitchen:

  1. Raw meat must be well-cooked.
  2. On dishes such as mayonnaise, which are prepared with raw eggs, should be avoided as completely as possible.
  3. Foods that may contain salmonella should be kept strictly separate from other foods.
  4. The hands should be washed before and after the meal preparation.
  5. It is advisable to change kitchen towels frequently.
  6. Kitchen appliances should be rinsed hot after use.
  7. Thawing water from frozen meat must not be brought into contact with other foodstuffs.

If you notice any signs of salmonellosis in or near you, contact your doctor immediately.

Another preventive measure is to vaccinate farm animals such as poultry, cattle and pigs for salmonella of the serotypes Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium. In addition, there are numerous (hygiene) guidelines for owners of livestock. However, these measures only reduce the risk of Salmonella infestation of the animals and can not completely exclude it.

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