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Salmonella Infection

Salmonella bacteria

Salmonellae are responsible for a significant number of infections in BC each year. Salmonellosis is the second most frequently reported bacterial gastroenteritis in B.C., after campylobacteriosis.

Information for Health Professionals

Salmonella are bacteria that infect the intestinal tract and sometimes the blood. When a person gets sick from this infection it is called salmonellosis. There are many different kinds of salmonella bacteria.

Salmonella are a common cause of diarrhea in B.C. and around the world. Children four years old and younger have the highest infection rates in B.C.  


Salmonella may cause:

  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea 
  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dehydration can occur, especially in infants.

Symptoms start an average of 6 hours to 7 days after exposure to the organism. Sometimes a person can be infected and have no symptoms or can carry the salmonella for a long period of time. Symptoms last 4 to 7 days and most people recover without treatment.



Salmonella are spread by the fecal-oral route. Fecal material from infected humans or animals can get into our mouths in a variety of ways:


  • consuming contaminated food or drink
  • contact with the feces of infected humans, especially infants with diarrhea, that is not followed by proper hand washing
  • direct contact with the feces of domestic or wild animals, including pets and farm animals, that is not followed by proper hand washing.
  • contact with contaminated pet food, especially raw pet food or pet treats which are at high risk of carrying Salmonella or other microbes, that is not followed by proper handwashing.

Salmonella live in the intestines of many animals including chickens, cows, pigs, sheep, and pets such as dogs, cats, chicks, ducklings, rodents, turtles, tortoises, snakes and iguanas. Pets may have fecal matter on their hair, fur, feathers or skin that is transferred to our hands when we touch them. Some animals used as feed for other animals (e.g. rodents fed to reptiles) can also infect humans. When animals are slaughtered for food, bacteria from an animal's intestines may contaminate the meat that we consume.

 Common sources of infection are undercooked poultry and other meats, undercooked eggs and egg products, unpasteurized milk, and other contaminated food and water. During food preparation, bacteria can be transmitted from contaminated foods to other foods or surfaces in the kitchen. This is called cross-contamination. It is especially dangerous if foods that are meant to be consumed uncooked, such as fresh fruits or vegetables, are cross-contaminated. An example of this would be cutting raw poultry or meat on a cutting board and then cutting vegetables on the same board without washing and sanitizing the board in between. 

Drinking water can be contaminated when humans, and wild or domestic animals leave their droppings in or near surface water sources such as springs, streams, rivers, lakes, ponds or shallow wells.



In a small percentage of cases, salmonella may cause infections or inflammation in other parts of the body. For example, a small percentage of Canadians may experience a temporary, ‘reactive arthritis’ after having salmonellosis.


Your doctor may order a stool culture to diagnose a Salmonella infection.


Most people recover without treatment.

Your doctor will decide if treatment is necessary in your particular case. People with salmonellosis are usually advised to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration from diarrhea.

When the infection is in the blood, it can be serious, requiring hospitalization and treatment with antibiotics.


Salmonella is passed in the feces; therefore, people with diarrhea that could be due to an infection should not go to work or school.

If you are a food handler, health care worker or work in or attend a day care, it is possible for you to transmit salmonella to others in these settings. Do not work while you have diarrhea or vomiting and do not return to work or day care until 48 hours after your last loose stool or episode of vomiting. This time period will ensure you have a chance to recover and lessen the possibility of transmitting the infection to others.If you experience diarrhea or vomiting, and are a foodhandler, child care worker or work in another at–risk occupation, do not work. Refer to the guidelines for  Exclusion of Enteric Cases and their Contacts from High Risk Settings. 

Children in day care who have diarrhea or vomiting can be cared for temporarily in an area separate from other children until picked up by their parents. To ensure proper hand washing, children in day cares should be supervised by an adult when washing their hands.


‎Be aware of the risks associated with the food products you buy and know how to prepare your food safely. Treat all raw poultry and meat, including raw pet food, as if it is contaminated and handle it safely.


Handle and prepare food safely:

  • Refrigerate foods promptly
  • Keep raw poultry and meats well wrapped and on lower refrigerator shelves so blood does not drip onto other foods
  • Thaw poultry and meat in the refrigerator, microwave, or under cold running water, not at room temperature
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked poultry or meats
  • To ensure poultry and meats are cooked thoroughly, use a meat thermometer and take the INTERNAL temperature of the meat by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. You must achieve the following temperatures: The MINIMUM internal temperature for poultry is 74º C (165º F)and the MINIMUM internal temperature for other meats is 71º C (160º F)
  • Avoid direct contact between raw meats and other uncooked foods
  • When cooking or barbequing, use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked poultry and meat
  • Use a separate cutting board for raw meats. If a second cutting board is unavailable, cut all other ingredients first before cutting raw meats
  • Wash and sanitize items that do not go in the dishwasher, such as cutting boards, utensils, counters, kitchen sinks and tap handles:

1) Wash with warm, soapy water

2) Rinse with warm, plain water

3) Sanitize with a mild bleach solution - one teaspoon of bleach per litre of water. Immerse items in the solution or spray solution onto surfaces and soak for at least two minutes to kill any bacteria

Other ways to prevent infection:


1) Before eating

2) Before handling food

3) Immediately after handling raw poultry or meat, and before touching anything else

4) After using the toilet or changing diapers

5) After touching animals

6) After any time they may have become contaminated

  • Do not eat raw unpasteurized eggs or uncooked foods containing raw unpasteurized eggs
  • Do not drink unpasteurized milk, and if you are prone to more serious illness, do not drink unpasteurized juices
  • If your local drinking water provider has issued a Boil Water Notice for your community, take the advice seriously
  • Do not drink untreated surface water from a spring, stream, river, lake, pond or shallow well. Assume it is contaminated with animal feces.

Boil or disinfect water from these sources that is used for:

1) drinking

2) making ice cubes

3) washing uncooked fruits and vegetables

4) making baby formula

5) brushing teeth

6) washing dentures and

7) any other consumption without adequate heat treatment

  •  Boil water for at least 1 minute at a rolling boil. At elevations above 2000 m (6562 ft), boil for at least 2 minutes, or  
  • Disinfect using 1 drop of bleach per litre of water. Shake and allow to stand for 30 minutes before drinking
  • For more information read How To Disinfect Drinking Water
  • Make sure children, particularly those who handle pets, wash their hands carefully before eating and on a regular basis if they suck their thumbs or put their hands in their mouths
  • Avoid feeding your pet raw food (meat or commercial raw pet food), raw meat pet treats or unpasteurized milk.  If you choose to feed these products to your pet, follow the safe food handling measures described above including thoroughly washing and disinfecting  all surfaces and pet bowls that have been in contact with this raw food.  The raw food should not be left out- immediately cover and refrigerate what you pet doesn't eat or throw the leftovers out
  • Do not allow young children or those who have compromised immune systems to handle chicks, ducklings or reptile pets
  • If you are considering raising poultry in your backyard, talk to your local government about bylaws and check out the CDC website for information on backyard poultry for precautions to follow.
  • If a trip to a petting zoo or farm is planned, read Petting Zoos and Open Farm Visits for important information. 

Last Updated: June 20, 2016

SOURCE: Salmonella Infection ( )
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