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Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating food sources or products that have been contaminated with bacteria or viruses. The common bacteria known to cause food poisoning are the Escherichia coli and salmonella, while the rotavirus and the norovirus among many viruses. Symptoms of food poisoning include stomach cramps, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea, lack of energy, appetite loss, muscle aches, chills, and fever. Usually, the symptoms go away in a few days without requiring medical attention.
Salmonella is one of the deadliest causal agent of food poisoning in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria causes at least 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths each year. People who are infected by salmonella develop fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps from 12 to 72 hours after infection.
The issue of salmonella poisoning has once again grabbed headlines as French multinational dairy products corporation, Lactalis, faces lawsuits due to contaminated baby milk formulas. More than 12 million boxes of powdered baby milk products have been recalled from 83 countries after the products were found to have been contaminated with salmonella bacteria which cause potentially fatal food poisoning.
The lawsuits against Lactalis were filed by parents of children who got sick from drinking the contaminated formula. The products were subjected to recall since December after the salmonella was detected at the factory. Moreover, recalls were issued three times covering Picot, Milumel, and Taranis brands.
"There are complaints and there will be an investigation with which we will fully collaborate," said Emmanuel Besnier, the chief executive officer of the company. Besnier also told the Journal du Dimanche, a French newspaper, that the company did not attempt to hide the outbreak and would pay damages to every family who suffered from the event.
Salmonellosis is known to be severe in people with compromised or weakened immune system, the elderly, and infants and young children. The reasons why people need to be hospitalized are severe diarrhea and the spread of the infection from the intestines to the bloodstream, then to the other parts of the body.
1. Diarrhea can cause dehydration that may lead to life-threatening complications. Hypovolemic shock is a serious complication of dehydration, characterized by low blood volume, low blood pressure, and low oxygen levels in the bloodstream. Other complications from dehydration include seizures, urinary and kidney problems, and organ failure.
2. Bacteremia is when the bacteria enters the bloodstream as a form of a severe complication of the original infection. In salmonellosis, salmonella can invade the bloodstream in severe cases, particularly in people with compromised immunity or lack of antibodies due to prematurity like in children.
A small number of salmonellosis cases have been reported with joint pain or reactive arthritis. This type of arthritis occurs as a reaction by the body to a bacterial infection that manifests through inflammation of the joints. Reactive arthritis may persist for months to years with a chance of becoming chronic arthritis. According to CDC, antibiotic treatment of initial salmonellosis does not affect the risk of developing arthritis.
Diagnosis of salmonellosis requires blood or stool samples from the patient to distinguish it from other diseases that can cause similar symptoms. Clinical tests for salmonella infection involves laboratory culture, DNA fingerprinting, and serotyping of the sample. Salmonella is divided into serotypes based on the structures of the bacteria's surface. Serotypes can cause variations of salmonellosis:
- Nontyphoidal serotypes: Infection from this serotype usually result in food poisoning. The infection begins after the person ingests food contaminated with a high concentration of salmonella. Infants and children are vulnerable to this infection, even with a small concentration of bacteria in the food or drink.
- Invasive nontyphoidal serotypes: Infection from this serotype usually result in bloodstream infections. It is more common in underdeveloped countries, such as the sub-Saharan African with a fatality rate of up to 25 percent.
Treatment of salmonellosis focuses on the preventing dehydration by replacing the fluids and electrolytes. Clinicians generally prescribe oral rehydration salts to combat the adverse effects of diarrhea, anti-diarrhea medications to relieve stomach cramps, and antibiotics if the infection has spread to the bloodstream.
Salmonella can be prevented by avoiding the following:
- Raw food and drinks that contain raw eggs may contain salmonella.
- Unpasteurized or raw milk may be contaminated.
- Uncareful preparation of food for infants, children, elderly, and immunocompromised people.
- Handling raw food while tending to children and people with a weakened immune system.
- Not washing hands properly after handling raw meat or poultry.
- Not cleaning utensils used in handling raw food properly.
Lactalis believes that the contamination was caused by the renovation of their Celia factory in Croan, northwest of France. The French government banned the products indefinitely and warned the company of penalties.
[메디컬리포트=Ralph Chen 기자]