Salmonella are a range of closely related rod-shaped bacteria that grow mainly in the intestines. They are microscopic living creatures that pass from the faeces of people and animals to other people and animals. Contaminated water and food are the main avenues through which salmonella enter the human body. The intestinal tract is their reservoir where they cause many diseases in both humans and animals. Research has proven that a temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (98F) is where salmonella thrive – that, unfortunately, happens to be the temperature of the human body! They reproduce very quickly with a sugar source. The bacteria attack all age groups and both sexes. However, it can be treated with antibiotics, unlike a cold virus.
Salmonella present in the food you eat passes through the stomach to the intestine. Attaching itself to the intestine walls, it creates a special kind of protein in response to our intestinal conditions and penetrates the barrier between us and the outside. It gains access to our insides and travels to the liver or the spleen. Most salmonella infections are traced back to dairy, poultry and meat products. While salmonella grow on virtually any type of food, chicken and eggs are high-risk foods. Beware of eggs with cracked shells. Refrigeration can prevent their reproduction but does not kill them.
Salmonella is named after Daniel Elmer Salmon, an American veterinary pathologist, although it was his subordinate Theobald Smith who first discovered the bacterium in 1885 in pigs.
It is difficult to detect the presence of salmonella for it sends out no smell or taste. The symptoms of a salmonella attack include: stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fever and chills. The attacks can be precipitated anywhere between 6-7 hours and three days.
 Symptoms of a salmonella attack
The severity of the infection determines the symptoms. A bad attack causes headache, diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever and sometimes even blood in the stools. Less severe infections would cause 2-3 bouts of diarrhea a day for a couple of days. Adequate rest and plenty of fluids is often enough to cure a mild attack and the patient is normally back on his feet within 4-7 days. However, do seek medical help if: stomach cramps are severe, diarrhea is severe and persists for more than a day; the patient has a fever of 38 degrees or higher; there is blood in the fecal matter; or, the patient appears to be dehydrated.
 Preventive care
- Ensure everything is thoroughly cooked.
- Wash hands and cooking surfaces before handling food, and as often as possible.
- Cutting boards, bowls and knives must be washed in hot, soapy water.
- Raw meat, poultry and seafood must be segregated from the other foods in your refrigerator. Their juices can contaminate your other foods with bacteria.
- Wash hands before switching from vegetables to meat cutting as this prevents exchange of bacteria between different ingredients.
- Ensure that dishcloths are washed at extremely hot temperatures to ensure hygiene.
- Rinse and scrub all fruits and vegetables.
- Wash and chill melons before slicing. Unused melon slices must be refrigerated. Ensure their rinds are damage-free.
- Always ensure food is refrigerated on time.
- While cooking, ensure that food is cooked to the correct temperatures.
 Cooking food to prevent salmonella
- It is always better to cook or boil poultry.
- Minced meat must also be thoroughly boiled and cooked.
- Always crack egg shells using a knife. Scald eggs in boiling water for five seconds before use as most salmonella exist on egg shells.
 More egg facts
- If you notice a cracked egg in a carton, throw the entire carton away as salmonella are quick to infect the lot.
- Feel the egg shell before you use the egg. If it appears or feels slimy or unclean in some way, you can be sure there are bacteria present on the surface.
- Pasteurized eggs are a safer bet.
- Cook until the yolk is firm.
- Don’t eat uncooked cake batter which contains raw eggs.
- Use commercially prepared (pasteurized) mayonnaise instead of making your own with raw eggs.
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