Britt and Mike joined two friends at a favorite restaurant for dinner and
shared a large pizza. While they had a great time, later that night was a
different story. All four awoke with severe nausea, stomach cramps and vomiting
-- enough to send them to the emergency room. After running some tests, the ER
doctor said they had a food-related illness. The culprit was a bacterium in the
Each year in the United States, some 76 million people experience
food-related illnesses. New outbreaks are reported daily. They come from
sources such as E. coli in undercooked hamburger or bacteria-laden lettuce;
salmonella from raw chicken, eggs, and green onions; or listeria bacteria from
soft cheeses and lunch meats. Food-related illness is a serious problem. But
you can protect yourself if you know the facts.
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While you might encounter thousands of types of bacteria in your everyday
environment, most cause you no harm. But when harmful bacteria, such as
salmonella, campylobacter, listeria and E. coli, enter our food or water
supply, they cause problems ranging from flu-like symptoms to serious illness
-- even death.
Three common types of food-related bacteria are:
Salmonella species. This is the bacterium that can cause illness
when you eat raw or undercooked eggs (even in chocolate chip cookie dough!).
Salmonella species are the No. 1 cause of food-related illness in the United
States. They are responsible for more deaths than any other food-borne
pathogen. Salmonella infection can lead to fever, abdominal cramps, and
diarrhea within 12 hours to three days after eating the contaminated
Campylobacter. This is the most common cause of diarrhea and
abdominal cramps from food-related illness. While most raw poultry meat has
campylobacter on it, vegetables and fruits can also become contaminated with
juices that drip from raw chicken. Unpasteurized milk or cheese or contaminated
water may also cause this infection.
Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (E. coli). This is a common cause of
dehydrating diarrhea worldwide. While most strains of E. coli live in the
intestines of healthy humans and animals, the 0157:H7 strain can be deadly,
leading to bloody diarrhea and even kidney failure. Other, less dangerous, E.
coli are responsible for most cases of "travelers'
Staph aureus. This organism contaminates many different kinds of
food. It causes food poisoning with vomiting followed by diarrhea in many
cases. It is often associated with restaurants or picnics where food is not
properly refrigerated or stays out of the refrigerator too long.
What Are Symptoms of Food-Related Illness?
The symptoms vary, depending on the bacteria and the person who ingests it.
Some common symptoms include: