Information relating to the Salmonella bacteria.
What is it?
It is an illness caused by the salmonella bacteria. The bacteria are swallowed, usually in food, and then multiply in the gut. After 12 to 36 hours (called the incubation period) symptoms develop in the infected person. Salmonella infection is characterised by vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, sometimes with an associated fever and general malaise (feeling unwell). This may continue for 2 to 3 days followed by gradual recovery. In the very young or elderly, or people with a weakened immune system, the symptoms may be more severe, last longer and they may take longer to recover.
How do you catch it?
Usually by eating food or drink that is contaminated by the bacteria. Salmonella is more common in some foods, such as raw poultry, unpasteurised (green top) milk, and raw eggs. It may also be found in shellfish and many other foods. You can also catch it from someone who is ill with salmonella, especially if hygiene is poor.
How can you avoid it?
- Always cook poultry thoroughly until the juices run clear. Make sure that frozen turkeys, chicken etc. are properly defrosted before you cook them. If possible always defrost them in the bottom of the fridge.
- Do not eat dishes made with raw eggs i.e. some homemade mayonnaise, cheesecakes and desserts.
- Do not serve eggs with runny yolks to the elderly, very young and those who are recovering from other illnesses.
- Do not drink unpasteurised (green top) milk.
- Do not allow raw meat or poultry to come into contact with other foods. Use a separate knife and chopping board for raw meats and poultry.
- Store food at the right temperature so that the bacteria cannot multiply. Either keep it cold (below 5 C) or hot (above 63 C).
- Always wash and dry your hands after using the toilet and before preparing food.
What can you do to prevent further spread?
Pay particular attention to personal hygiene - hands should be thoroughly washed (using hot water, soap and a nail brush) after using the toilet and immediately before any handling, preparing or serving of food. Towels should not be shared. Children should be supervised in their hand-washing after using the toilet and before eating food. Particular care should also be taken if you have to attend to elderly relatives suffering from diarrhoea associated with a Salmonella infection.
Soiled clothing and bed linen should be washed in a domestic washing machine with a 'hot cycle'. As much faecal matter as possible should be flushed down the toilet. Soaking in a household disinfectant may also be used before washing, to reduce contamination. Disposable plastic or rubber gloves should be worn and hands thoroughly washed afterwards.
Clean toilet seat, flush handles and taps frequently with hot soapy water. You do not need to use disinfectants, but if you want to then follow the manufacturers instructions carefully, and keep them away from children.
When can you go back to work/school?
You should stay away from work or school until you have been free from diarrhoea and vomiting for at least 48 hours. The Environmental Health Department may tell you to stay off longer or may ask for further faeces specimens. You must follow their advice.
From an information leaflet published by Nottingham and North Nottinghamshire Health Authorities.
Page Last Updated: 30/05/2008