What is it? Salmonella is an infectious, food borne illness. It is recognised initially by the symptoms. These can include diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever. These symptoms can last for up to 7 days.

How is it caused?

It is caused by the salmonella bacteria entering the body through the mouth usually from unwashed hands and infected food or drink.

Possible routes of the infection are:-

eating contaminated foods such as poultry or poultry based foods, eggs or egg products and milk or dairy products.
contact with infected animals, pets and farm animals.
contact with infected cases.

How is it spread?

It can be spread by hands contaminated with bacteria, from handling raw poultry or other foods or by a person with diarrhoea if care is not taken with personal hygiene.

It is possible to be a carrier and therefore to spread germs without having any symptoms or even knowing that you are infected.

How can I stop the infection spreading?

People with diarrhoea and vomiting symptoms are the greatest risk. Once the symptoms have gone, the chances of spreading the infection are greatly reduced. Anyone who has diarrhoea would be well advised to temporarily reduce social contact with others.

If you handle food or drink or are in contact with young children or elderly people in the course of your daily work you should tell your employer or supervisor.

What precautionary measures can I take?

Thorough hand washing is vital:-

before preparing or serving food or drink
after dealing with anyone with diarrhoea
after changing the baby's nappy
after handling raw meat
after using or cleaning the toilet
Cover open wounds or sores with a waterproof plaster.

Keep all perishable foods in a fridge separating raw meat from other foods.

Only take food out of the fridge just before use.

Keep fridge temperature below 5°C.

Ensure frozen foods are properly thawed before cooking. Keep kitchen surfaces and utensils perfectly clean. Wash them between preparing different foods.

Ensure foods are cooked thoroughly.

Do not let pets or other animals in the kitchen when preparing food. Do not wash pets' food bowls with the family dishes.

Do not buy or eat food past its 'use by' or 'best before' date.

Do not reheat food more than once.

Always follow the instructions on cooking/reheating microwave and ready meals carefully to ensure that the food is evenly heated throughout.

Will I need treatment?

No treatment is usually given for salmonella infections. It is simply a case of letting the body's natural defences deal with the infection. In some cases antibiotics may be prescribed but such treatments can have the disadvantage of extending the time during which the patient carries and can pass on the germ.

Do I need to submit specimens?

In some cases it may be necessary to collect specimens of faeces for analysis to confirm the presence of a pathogenic organism. The results can help in determining the possible source of an infection.

Where it is felt necessary to submit a faecal sample an Environmental Health Officer will contact you. You will be given a special container and full instructions on collecting a sample. The sample will be sent to the laboratory for analysis and you will be advised of the outcome.