Salmonella is one of the most common types of food poisoning caused by bacteria in the United States. The US Centers for Disease Control gets about 42,000 reports of salmonella each year. Experts there believe the total number of cases actually may be more than 1.2 million. Salmonella is more common in the summer than the winter.
Salmonella usually is a brief illness with stomach cramps and diarrhea that lasts four to seven days. In some people, the diarrhea can be severe or last longer. In general, children are more likely to get salmonella than other age groups.
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:
Salmonella symptoms are vague and can be caused by many illnesses. The only way to know for sure that diarrhea, cramps, and fever are caused by Salmonella infection is by a lab test on the sick person’s stool.
There are more than 2,000 different types of salmonella bacteria that cause people to get sick. Certain antibiotics do not work against some of these types. If the sick person goes to the doctor, the doctor may order additional lab tests on the bacteria in the stool sample to identify the type of salmonella. This information will help the doctor decide what antibiotic to use if that person needs treatment.
Most people with salmonella recover in four to seven days and do not need treatment. During the illness, the person should drink plenty of fluids to replace the fluid lost by diarrhea.
A person who has severe diarrhea or is sick for longer than a week may need to be hospitalized. In the hospital, he or she will be treated with intravenous (IV) fluids. Antibiotics may be used to treat infants, people over age 65, people with a weak immune system (like cancer patients), and those who have severe diarrhea and a high fever and have the bacteria in their bloodstream.
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.
Anything that changes the digestive tract to make it easier for Salmonella bacteria to survive can increase the risk of getting the infection. These include:
Call the doctor if:
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 01/17/2019