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Salmonella is a bacterium which is one of the most common causes of food poisoning world-wide. Salmonella infections usually result from a combination of contaminated foods, poor kitchen hygiene and inadequate cooking of food. The bacterium are found particularly in poultry, eggs, unprocessed milk, meat and water. They can also be carried by pets such as turtles and birds.
After contaminated food has been consumed, symptoms usually occur within 12-36 hours. The symptoms suffered can include:
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Possibly, blood in the faeces
In the case of less serious infections there are fewer symptoms - usually only diarrhoea two or three times a day for a couple of days. Most mild types of Salmonella infection clear up in four to seven days without requiring any treatment other than rest and plenty of liquid.
A more severe infection may cause excessive diarrhoea, stomach cramps and general health problems. In such cases, treatment with antibiotics may be necessary and a doctor should be consulted. In some cases, diarrhoea can be so severe that hospitalisation for re-hydration may be necessary. In rare cases (particularly in the elderly or the very young) infection may result in very severe illness or even death.
Diagnosis of infection can be made through laboratory testing of a stool sample. Most people usually recover completely but a small number go on to develop joint pain, irritation of the eyes and painful urination known as Reiter's Syndrome leading to chronic arthritis.
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