Salmonella (sal-mo-NELL-uh) is a disease you may have heard of, possibly associated with eggs or chicken. This is partially correct. But Salmonella is really just the first part of the name of this disease – the genus, in Latin terms. There are actually two major types that cause illness.
The first group is called nontyphoidal Salmonellosis. It includes all of the species that cause gastrointestinal illnesses. The symptoms when you get sick from this type can include: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and fever. The illness may last a couple of days, tapering off within a week and usually goes away by itself in healthy people.
The second group of Salmonella species (there are 6 of them) fall into a group called typhoidal Salmonellosis. In the old days, this was called typhoid fever! The symptoms of this illness include high fever, diarrhea, aches, headache, drowsiness and sometimes a rash. It can last as long as 2 to 4 weeks, and the death rate (mortality) can be as high as 10%. Luckily it is estimated there are only about 1800 cases annually in the U.S.
Sources: Salmonella is widely distributed in nature. It can be found in livestock, wild animals, people and pets, including turtles, frogs, and chickens. It can contaminate water, and thus produce, and can be found on the shells of eggs. Cross contamination can easily spread Salmonella. Humans are a main source of the disease, and Salmonella is frequently spread by failure to wash hands after using the restroom (it is a fecal-oral disease).
Prevention: Cooking to 165° F will kill the bacteria. Good handwashing will help to prevent cross contaminating (spreading) the bacteria from one area to another. Always wash your hands after using the restroom, handling pets, and cooking with raw meat.