Focus on Salmonella

What is Salmonella ?

Salmonellosis is a very common food-borne infection. In more than 90% of cases, it is the consumption of food contaminated with animal faeces that is the cause. Food contaminated with Salmonella does not necessarily show visible changes or a suspect smell. They are mainly eggs (and products containing them), meat and poultry eaten raw or undercooked.

However, any food – including fruit and vegetables – can carry salmonella, especially if it is washed with contaminated water or comes into contact with contaminated raw meat.

Even if a meat has been properly frozen, it can still pose a risk. In fact, as soon as the cold chain is broken, there is a risk of contamination. This is why summer is the best time for salmonella contamination.

The bacteria can only be eliminated by cooking. Impeccable hygiene during the preparation of meals is therefore essential to protect against contamination.

Who is affected?

Over the past 10 years, salmonellosis cases have fallen from an average of 10.000 to 4.000 per year, thanks in part to a vaccination campaign for laying and breeding hens. However, the actual number of cases is believed to be much higher because many people have only mild symptoms, which sometimes go unnoticed. Children are more at risk: those under 5 years of age are five times more affected than the general population.

Transmission from one person to another

The risk is higher when the infected person is preparing a meal for others. In general, salmonella can be found just about anywhere as it is a resistant bacterium that can survive for some time outside a living host. So remember to wash your hands regularly!

What are the possible complications?

Salmonellosis usually has no serious consequences. However, the elderly, infants and weakened people may suffer more severely.

The most common complication is dehydration. Therefore, it is advisable to stay well hydrated as long as the symptoms persist. It may take a few weeks for the bowel function to return completely to normal.

On rare occasions, the infection crosses the intestinal barrier and spreads to various parts of the body through the bloodstream. The infection must then be treated with antibiotics without delay.

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