My family visited from out of state last week and we had a wonderful visit. My mother and I talked a lot about important issues within the extended family, her health, and what stages my little one were going through. It is oddly funny though, that we circle back to one topic from time to time that happened to both my mother and I about 30 years ago: we both had food poisoning from eating the same thing at a picnic. Without going into the gory details, let’s just say that we both had a memorable night – in separate bathrooms. What caught my attention about her mentioning that night this time was how much more I know now than what I did then. There is so much about food poisoning we do know and so much more to learn. Like the different between Salmonella-Typhi Versus Non-Typhi.
Did you know there were different types of Salmonella? Salmonella is the bacteria in food that makes us sick. And for the purpose of our time together, I want to talk about two types of Salmonella: Typhi and Non-Typhi. Don’t worry, even though the science behind Salmonella poisoning is fascinating, I won’t bore you with the details. That is for your own reading.
Salmonella Typhi (better known as typhoid fever) is the more dangerous of the two and rightly so. Salmonella Typhi can affect a larger area and can cause people to become seriously ill or die. Not to diminish the seriousness, we will spend less time looking at this type due to it not being as common and there already being vaccinations available.
According to the CDC, there are about 350 people in the United States diagnosed with typhoid fever. The estimated number of cases is much higher but many are not reported. Most cases in the United States were from individuals who traveled out of the country and returned ill.
Typhoid fever is most common in countries where food and water are unsafe and there is poor sanitation. Higher-risk countries are: South Asia, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Caution should be taken if you plan on visiting any of these places.
There are two major ways typhoid fever spreads: through food and water that has been contaminated by sewage and person-to-person. Once contracted, an individual can spread typhoid to others until the bacteria have left their body. Symptoms of typhoid fever include:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
If you or anyone you know has been out of the country and has any of the symptoms listed above, do not wait ad contact your doctor immediately. Only strong antibiotics can help. While these symptoms can seem a little tame, it is important to remember that typhoid fever is relentless and can make you seriously ill if not treated.
Most of us have had food poisoning at least once in our lives. If I remember, I have had it three times over the course of my time here. The one my mother and I talk about every once in a while, was bad enough for me to remember it all these years later.
Because Salmonella is an ever-present danger, it is important to understand how we get it and to know the best ways to prevent it. I was sick because I didn’t know any different; food safety was not a concept I understood. Now, I would have no excuse. Of course, there are times when food poisoning is out of our control but those should not be the norm.
In contrast, the CDC estimates about 1.35 million people contract Salmonella each year in the United States. There are about 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths. While this is tragic, a lot of these cases could have been prevented by making sure we are safe when preparing, cooking, and eating food. Food is the main source of Salmonella poisoning.
You should notice similarities between these two types of Salmonella. This is because at the core they are the same. It is how strong, dangerous, and spread that makes them different to us (we cannot see them on a microscopic level so we will not count that).
Signs and symptoms of Salmonella poisoning include:
- Stomach cramps
Most Salmonella poisoning will go away eventually. There are, however, times when we should not wait. Call a doctor if:
- Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102 degrees
- Diarrhea for more than 3 days
- Bloody stools
- Prolong vomiting that prevents you from staying hydrated
- Signs of dehydration: dry mouth, little urination, and dizziness when standing
Preventing Salmonella poisoning is a lifelong endeavor. Thankfully, it is not a difficult one. By washing our hands and following a few simple tips on cooking we can all but eliminate the danger.
Washing our hands is as easy as counting to five:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together, front and back.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands with clean, running water.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel.
This is the first line of defense in stopping Salmonella poisoning but certainly not the last. Along with hand washing, here are more tips we should all commit to memory:
- Clean – Wash not only your hands but all surfaces and cooking utensils.
- Separate – Cross-contamination is a real threat. Know how to avoid it.
- Cook – Cook food to the correct temperatures. Here is a reference guide.
- Chill – Refrigerate food soon after eating and in different containers.
No matter the age or degree, Salmonella poisoning is never an enjoyable part to any day. As I said before, there are times when all of the prevention we can muster is still not enough. These times are usually out of our control though. We have tips and tricks at our disposal that can make food poisoning much less threatening we just need to remember and practice them.
I encourage you to read more about the different types of Salmonella and know what to look for especially. These are just two types among plenty more. The difference between Salmonella-Typhi Versus Non-Typhi.