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What Is Salmonella? continued...

Salmonella can escape from the intestine and go into the blood and travel to other organs. It may become a chronic infection in some people, who can be symptom-free yet capable of spreading the disease to others.

Salmonella infections occur worldwide, but it is most extensively reported in North America and Europe.

Symptoms of salmonella include acute onset of:

  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting (sometimes)

These symptoms, along with loss of appetite, can persist for several days.

Can Salmonella Infection Cause Serious Health Problems?

Although most people recover completely (which sometimes can take several months), salmonella infection may cause a condition known as reactive arthritis in a small percentage of people. Symptoms include joint pain, eye irritation, and pain when urinating. The joint pain may develop into chronic arthritis.

Salmonella infection rarely causes death, although it can occur in the very young, very old, or among those who have compromised immune systems.

How Is Salmonella Infection Diagnosed and Treated?

If you think you may have been exposed to the salmonella infection, see your doctor. By testing a sample of stool, the bacteria can be identified.

Salmonella infections usually go away in five to seven days and often do not require treatment unless you become severely dehydrated or the infection spreads outside of the intestines. If treatment is needed, antibiotics are prescribed.

How Can I Avoid Salmonella?

To prevent salmonella infection, avoid eating raw or undercooked meat or poultry products, including eggs. It is also important to avoid "cross-contamination," which can occur if food is being prepared using the same utensils, or on the same surfaces, as those used for raw or undercooked meats or poultry products.

Wash hands frequently during and after food preparation. Those with a salmonella infection should not be involved in food preparation.

Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or after contact with pet feces. Avoid contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, and snakes) and infants or people with weakened immune systems.

What Is Shigella?

Shigella is a bacteria generally transmitted through feces. It causes dysentery, an infection of the intestines that causes severe diarrhea. The disease generally occurs in tropical or temperate climates, especially under conditions of crowding, where personal hygiene is poor.

Symptoms of shigella include:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps

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