What is salmonellosis?

Salmonellosis is a diarrheal illness caused by a bacteria called Salmonella, most commonly found in the intestines of animals and birds. Salmonellosis is the second most common infection causing diarrheal illness in Ontario.

How is salmonellosis spread?

People become infected with Salmonella when they consume food or water that are contaminated with the bacteria. Salmonella bacteria can often be found in poultry and poultry products, raw milk and milk products, meats (pork, beef), raw or undercooked eggs, and raw fruits and vegetables. Salmonella can also be spread from having contact with infected animals such as amphibians, reptiles, pocket pets (rodents, hedgehogs), cats, dogs, birds, and farm animals. Person-to-person spread is less likely but may also occur if, for example, improper hand hygiene while changing diapers of an infected infant results in accidental oral exposure to feces.

What are the symptoms of salmonellosis?

Symptoms usually start 6 to 72 hours after consuming the bacteria but can take as long as 16 days to develop in some circumstances. Symptoms may include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, and headache. It is possible to carry the bacteria and infect others without having any symptoms. 

What is the treatment for salmonellosis?

In general, people only require rest and fluids to replace what is lost through diarrhea. Most people recover in a few days without treatment. People with severe symptoms, symptoms that continue to worsen, or symptoms that are not gradually getting better should seek care from their health care provider.

Are there any restrictions or special considerations for people with salmonellosis?

People can spread salmonellosis while they are ill and up to several weeks afterwards. However, people can usually return to work and school when they feel better and no longer have symptoms. Food handlers, those who provide health care services, and those who work or attend a child care centre should remain at home until the diarrhea has stopped for at least 24 hours.

How can I protect myself against salmonellosis?

To prevent becoming ill with salmonellosis:

  • Do not keep reptiles and amphibians as pets for young children
  • Always wash hands after touching turtles, reptiles, chicks, ducks, exotic pets and their environments
  • Cook poultry pieces and egg products to 74°C (165°F)
  • Cook whole poultry to 82°C (180°F)
  • Avoid eating raw eggs and never use dirty or cracked eggs
  • Do not eat or drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or dairy products
  • Clean counters where food is prepared with warm soapy water, and sanitize utensils, cutting boards and surfaces that may have been contaminated with raw meat or poultry
  • Refrigerate cold foods, keep hot foods hot, and refrigerate leftovers promptly
  • Ensure good hand washing with soap and water for at least 15 seconds before preparing food, before eating, after handling raw meats, after using the toilet, after changing diapers, and anytime hands may be dirty
  • Avoid local water when travelling to countries where the water supply is uncertain; instead use only sealed bottled water or treated (chemically disinfected or boiled) water for drinking, brushing teeth, preparing foods, making ice, and cooking
  • Beware of raw foods washed in local water when travelling; eat only cooked food and fruit that can be peeled after it has been washed with water from a safe source
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under clean running water before eating
What is Ottawa Public Health’s role?

All cases of salmonellosis must be reported to the local public health unit. Once a laboratory report of this illness is received, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) investigates all cases to determine the cause or exposure, provide education, and follow up with their healthcare providers where appropriate. If a common source of illness is identified, OPH will conduct additional investigation.

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