Salmonellosis

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Overview

Salmonellosis is an infection of the digestive tract by the bacterium, Salmonella enterica. Salmonella is widespread and can be found on many dairy farms and in many species of animals, including mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and humans. This bacterium usually infects an animal when its immune system is suppressed or when it is exposed to high doses of the organism.

Both clinical outbreaks and subclinical infections of Salmonella can drain profit from the dairy operation. Salmonella infection in a dairy herd can lead to losses from:

milk production decline

death in any age group of livestock

abortions

treatment costs

losses from antibiotic contaminated milk

increased culling

increased cost due to delayed culling while antibiotic residues clear

increased labor for management of sick animals

reduced feed efficiency the inability to sell animals originating from an “infected” herd

Salmonella infection is also a significant public health risk to farm families, employees and visitors. Outbreaks of this disease often occur after episodes of flooding or runoff, when cattle feed or equipment is contaminated with flood waters carrying the organism.

Salmonella is a highly contagious bacteria that spreads primarily when animals consume contaminated feed or water. Cows, birds and rodents shed large numbers of Salmonella during the clinical stage of disease and readily contaminate their surroundings, including feed, water troughs, barnyards, feeding equipment and people who work around them. Most of the bacteria are shed in the feces, but when systemic illness develops, the organism is also shed in saliva, nasal secretions, urine, and milk.

Some animals, upon recovery, become carriers and continue to shed organisms for many months. They may show no more outward signs of the disease but are a continuing source of Salmonella contamination.

Salmonellosis is often seen as an acute disease, usually starting with a high fever (103-106 degrees), that progresses to serious diarrhea, which often contains blood and is foul smelling. The affected animal becomes dehydrated and depressed, and may die. Your veterinarian should become involved as soon as this disease is suspected.

Treatment of salmonellosis with antibiotics is seldom effective by itself, especially if the disease has progressed to the diarrheal stage. The most effective treatment of the sick cow is primarily by supportive therapy, such as oral or IV electrolytes and fluids.

Symptoms

Diarrhea.

Stomach (abdominal) cramps.

Fever.

Nausea.

Vomiting.

Chills.

Headache.

Blood in the stool.

Causes

Salmonella are a type of bacteria that can live in the digestive tract (intestines) of humans and other animals. Salmonella can pass out of the intestines into poop (feces/stool). A person can get infected with Salmonella by:

Eating undercooked foods contaminated with animal feces.

Cooking food destroys Salmonella. Eating raw or undercooked beef, poultry (like chicken or duck), and seafood are a risk. Foods that contain raw eggs also are a risk (like cookie dough or homemade mayonnaise).

Milk and unwashed, raw vegetables and fruit also can carry Salmonella.

Eating food prepared on surfaces that were in contact with raw meat (such as a cutting board, or countertop).

Eating foods contaminated with human feces.

This can happen if a food worker does not wash his or her hands before handling food.

Holding, kissing or petting turtles, snakes, lizards, chicks and baby birds.

These animals are likely to carry Salmonella. People can get infected if they do not wash their hands after they handle these animals or touch their feces or environment (cage, pen, ground, etc.).

FYI: In 1975 the US Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of small turtles in the United States because of the risk of salmonella.

Risk factors

Children under age 5

Infants who are not breastfed

Adults 65 and older

Individuals with a weakened immune system (such as people with HIV or sickle cell disease, cancer patients, and those taking corticosteroids)

People taking antacids (stomach acid can kill many types of salmonella bacteria; antacids lower your stomach’s acidity, which allows more bacteria to thrive)

People taking antibiotics (these can lower the amount of “good” bacteria and leave you vulnerable to the infection)

People with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, which damages your intestinal lining and makes it easier for salmonella to flourish

Pet owners (especially those who own birds and reptiles)

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Complications

Most people who get salmonella feel better within a week and recover completely. It may take a few months before their bowel system is back to normal.

In severe cases, Salmonella bacteria can get into the bloodstream and travel to the liver, kidneys, or other organs. When this happens, the person must be treated with antibiotics. If treatment is not started soon enough, the infection can cause death. About 400 people a year die from salmonella in the United States.

Reiter’s syndrome is a rare complication of salmonella. In this condition, the person develops joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and pain on urination. Reiter’s syndrome can last for months or years and can lead to arthritis that is difficult to treat.Dehydration

If you can't drink enough to replace the fluid you're losing from diarrhea, you may become dehydrated. Warning signs include:

Urinating less than usual or dark-colored urine

Dry mouth and tongue

Sunken eyes

No tears when crying

Being more tired than usual

Irritability or confusion

Bacteremia

If salmonella infection enters your bloodstream (bacteremia), it can infect tissues throughout your body, including:

The urinary system (urinary tract infection)

The tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)

The lining of the heart or valves (endocarditis)

The bones or bone marrow (osteomyelitis)

The lining of blood vessels, especially if you've had a vascular graft, such as heart vessel bypass surgery

Reactive arthritis

People who have had salmonella are at higher risk of developing reactive arthritis from salmonella infection. Also known as Reiter's syndrome, reactive arthritis typically causes:

Eye irritation

Painful urination

Painful joints

Prevention

When cooking, wash your hands, cutting boards, utensils, and countertops after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry. Wash your hands in between handling different kinds of food (meat and vegetables, for example).

Wash fresh vegetables and fruit thoroughly before eating.

Cook food to the recommended safe temperature:

145°F for roasts

160°F for ground meats

165°F for all poultry

Keep the refrigerator below 40°F.

Put prepared food in the refrigerator within 30 minutes after eating.

Keep foods that can spoil refrigerated.

Put fresh foods in the refrigerator promptly after grocery shopping.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs or raw (unpasteurized) milk.

Wash your hands with soap after handling snakes, lizards, or other reptiles; birds; or baby chicks.

Do not allow an infant or person with a weak immune system to touch reptiles or their environment.