Salmonella Infection (Salmonellosis): Causes and Treatment

Salmonella Infection Salmonellosis
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Salmonella infection is also known as salmonellosis, and it can be contracted from pets, food, or exposure to animal or human feces.

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Older adults, children, and individuals with a weakened immune system stand the most risk of getting a salmonella infection.

In this article, you’ll be taught the common causes and risk factors of salmonella infection so that you can prevent this type of food poisoning and diarrhea.

Causes of salmonella infections

Salmonella infection or salmonellosis is caused by bacteria belonging to the Salmonella genus, which is known to live in the intestinal tract of both humans and animals and is easily spread through feces.

While the salmonella bacteria may be present in animals but not make them sick, it can easily sicken humans. An individual who is infected with salmonella can easily spread it to those around them through the feces.

Nontyphoidal salmonella is what causes salmonella gastroenteritis infections.

There are typhoid types that are responsible for producing typhoid fever, which is quite uncommon in developed countries such as the U.S. but is commonly reported in developing countries.

There are several serotypes (or distinct variations) of this family of bacteria that are commonly isolated in infections and outbreaks.

There are two primary ways in which the salmonella bacteria is spread: through contact with feces and through contact with contaminated food and water.

The spread can also occur through fecal contamination of water or via cross-contamination in football processing or preparation.

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Such kind of exposure can lead to spreading the salmonella bacteria in fruits, vegetables, seafood, spices, and even processed foods.

Cooking has been found to kill the bacteria, which is why it is recommended that people use meat thermometers when cooking poultry. Other ways the bacteria can be killed include Pasteurizing milk and boiling water.

Contact With Animals

Humans can be exposed to the salmonella bacteria by farm animals and pets, and that will lead to salmonellosis.

If you work on a farm or you visit a farm or barnyard frequently, you may have to stay away from the animals as you can quickly contact the bacteria.

The salmonella bacteria is known to easily contaminate the furs, enclosures, feathers, and even the groundwater in such areas. It is possible for these animals to appear clean and healthy and still transmit the bacteria.

There are animals that have been identified as those that quickly spread salmonella, and they include pigs, poultry, sheep, goats, and cattle.

While you may take your time to care for your backyard chicken as assume that it may never be a source of this bacteria, there is a counter opinion from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC reported more than 790 cases of salmonella were spread in the same manner in the first six months of 2017. That’s a huge figure when compared with only 53 outbreaks confirmed from 1990 to 2014.

Below are the farming practices that are associated with salmonellosis risk:

  • Failing to collect freshly laid eggs at least daily, mostly during warm weather
  • Not refrigerating the newly collect eggs immediately after collection
  • Not washing hands thoroughly after cleaning or touching a chicken
  • Kissing or petting a chicken
  • Failing to immediately quarantine visibly ill birds
  • Fertilizing gardens with freshly collected, uncured manure which can easily contaminate crops

Pets are also a major source of salmonella. Handling reptiles such as turtles, iguanas, and lizards often exposes the handler to the salmonella bacteria as these animals have it on their shell or outer skin.

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Turtles and other reptiles that have the salmonella bacteria aren’t themselves sick and usually do not have any symptoms.

Pet birds like parrots and parakeets, rodents such as guinea pig and hamsters, amphibians such as roadsides and frogs, hedgehogs, cats, dogs, and horses can also be sources of salmonella infections.

Besides touching the infected animal, you can also pick up the bacteria from touching their cage, food, tank water, bedding, or toys. Also, salmonella bacteria can be transmitted by handling wild animals.

At one time, free-living turtles were thought not to be so much of a risk, but it has been discovered that that wild turtles are also capable of carrying salmonella, or they can easily acquire the bacteria if you make them a pet.

Some other animals you may want to look out for include toads, wild frogs, mice, rats, and birds. Animals can pass salmonella even without having any symptoms.

In some places, food handlers are not allowed to return to work until testing reveals that they are entirely free of the bacteria. Even after these people feel well again, some of them continue to carry the salmonella bacteria and shed it.

This group of people can easily contaminate surfaces and spread the salmonella bacteria by hand if they do not thoroughly wash after using the bathroom.

Risk Groups for salmonella

Small amounts of salmonella bacteria may not be enough to cause a salmonella infection. However, in infants, children below age 5, people who are over age 65, and people with compromised immune systems are most likely to suffer a salmonella infection after exposure.

Some specific conditions and medications may weaken immunity to salmonella infection, and they include sickle cell disease, corticosteroids, AIDS, malaria, and anti-rejection medications.

Also, people who take an antacid stand a greater risk of getting an infection as more ingested bacteria will survive to reach the gut. Those who have inflammatory bowel disease are also at risk because of the damage to their intestinal lining.

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A person may also be at higher risk of getting salmonellosis after taking antibiotics because the friendly gut bacteria will be killed, and that will leave that habitat exposed for salmonella.

Salmonella Lifestyle Risk Factors

There are many simple things that people do that may increase their risk of contracting or even spreading salmonella. Below are common habits and practices to avoid:

  • Failure to properly wash your hands with soap and water after using the restroom, changing a diaper, or caring for a sick person
  • Failure to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water before and after preparing food and after toughing eggs or raw meat
  • Cutting or handling eggs or raw meat, and then making use of the knife, bowl, cutting board, or other cooking utensils for other food items like fruits and vegetables
  • Consuming raw or undercooked eggs, meat, or unpasteurized milk products
  • Not properly washing fresh vegetables and fruit before eating them
  • Allowing pets or stray animals in areas where drinks and food are stored, prepared, or eaten.
  • Failure to thoroughly wash your hands after touching or handling an animal, especially before you prepare food or eat
  • Carelessly discarding cleaning water from the pet’s cage or habitat in a kitchen sink
  • Leaving the duty of pet care and habitat cleaning to children and other people who are at great risk for getting a salmonella infection without wearing disposable gloves
  • Fertilizing flower beds and gardens with uncured pet manure

Diagnosing salmonellosis

There are a number of ways your doctor can diagnose Salmonellosis. These methods include:

Physical Examination

In many cases of salmonellosis, a doctor can gather the required information from a person’s medical history, the patient’s current list of symptoms, as well as completing a physical exam to make a proper diagnosis.

When carrying out a physical exam, the doctor may have to assess the patient’s vital signs and also check for evidence of dehydration.

The doctor may also need to palpate the abdomen for tenderness and pain. For pediatric cases of salmonella infections, the pediatrician may have to perform a rectal exam to identify the presence of stools that contain blood or mucus.

Labs and Tests for salmonella infection

Lab testing may be required for the proper diagnosis of salmonella infection. Below are the standard lab tests that may be carried out:

Stool Testing

If a doctor suspects the salmonella bacteria may be responsible for nausea, fever, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and other common symptoms, they can have to order a stool test.

This test is the only way to know for certain whether your illness is as a result of salmonella infection.

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The doctor may also need to order specific lab tests for a patient’s stool sample in order to identify the specific type of salmonella that is responsible for the patient’s symptoms.

If there is a need for antibiotics, this test information will help the doctor decide the right one for the patient to take.

Blood Testing

Usually, a salmonella infection will affect the digestive tract, but it’s quite possible for the bacteria to enter into the patient’s bloodstream.

If your doctor is of the opinion Jon that this has happened, he will have to carry out a blood test to confirm this diagnosis.

Other Tests

When symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea become severe, a patient may have to be hospitalized.

In this event, a doctor may have to order a series of other labs and tests to stabilize the patient and get his or her symptoms under control.

However, for many individuals, the illness will resolve without any treatment and may not need laboratory testing. It must be noted that a typical salmonella infection will often last between four and seven days.


Many patients who deal with acute Salmonella infections will have no need to see a doctor. However, if they do, the doctor may choose to treat the infection with some medication based on the presentation of the illness and his clinical expertise.

As a result, most patients will not be required to undergo any imaging procedures like ultrasounds, X-rays, or CT scans.

Treatment for salmonella Infection

Since salmonella infections are known to have vomiting and diarrhea as common symptoms, it’s crucial that a patient stays hydrated as best they can.

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If the patient is an adult, it is essential to increase his or her fluid intake of water, sports drinks, caffeine-free drinks, broths, or fruit juices. Alcohol must be avoided at all costs.

For children who may experience mild to moderate dehydration, parents or guardians can give them an oral solution like Pedialyte.

Such oral solutions are aimed at rehydrating the child and can be instrumental in restoring the lost electrolytes and nutrients.

Furthermore, if a child is unwell but doesn’t exhibit any signs of dehydration, it is still important to increase their intake of fluid more frequently.

We hope this article has been of help. Do well to leave your questions below and also share.


  • Salmonella; CDC
Salmonella Infection Salmonellosis
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Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.
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