National salmonella outbreaks are scary, aren’t they? When they occur (and it seems pretty often) we hear an almost daily barrage of new cases—some serious, a few even deadly. What is the average Jane or Joe to do in a situation like this, other than worry?
One thing, of course, is to avoid the affected foods. You’ll survive for the short term. If you just can’t live without your favorite peanut combo, you can check your brand’s website or call their headquarters for information. The FDA has recommended that companies whose peanuts are not supplied by the Peanut Corporation of American (the source of the outbreak) publicize this fact.
But, really, how dangerous are these outbreaks to the general public?
There have been around 600 reported cases and eight deaths related to the peanuts so far. These amounts will probably double or even triple before it’s over, but they’re small peanuts (?) to the more than 40,000 salmonella cases reported nationwide every year, most not due to outbreaks. About 20 percent of these people are hospitalized and 0.6 percent die. The really sick ones are usually under 1 year of age or elderly, or have a low immune system from disease or chemotherapy.
The occasional stool-culture-positive patient I see each year usually is unsure where he or she got it. Maybe from eating out, maybe some leftovers, maybe from family members. Of course, most people know pet turtles, snakes and salamanders can be carriers, as can uncooked eggs and chicken. Since there’s no legal requirement to report every case, and a lot of milder cases never make it to the doctor or never have cultures, it’s estimated there are over 1.4 million total U.S. cases per year.
SALMONELLA POISONING SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT
If you’re not in at high-risk group and develop salmonellosis, there’s not much to do other than keep from getting dehydrated by drinking clear liquids.
About six to 48 hours after exposure, you’ll develop abdominal cramping, diarrhea and fever. The fever lasts 48 hours but the diarrhea may last up to a week.
If your diarrhea is profuse or you can’t get enough fluids by mouth, you may need some I.V. fluids. Some people get very sick and need IV antibiotics and fluids in the hospital if the Salmonella bacteria get in the bloodstream. For the common case, you don’t get better any quicker with antibiotics.
Taking antidiarrhea medicine may only prolong your illness.
As I like to say, statistics don’t really matter if it’s you or your loved one who is sick or dying, but I just wanted to put it in a little perspective. It is a nasty bug. You should do all you can to avoid it, but unless you’re in a high-risk group, your odds of getting over it are very good.
What do you think? Have you ever had the bug yourself?
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