What it is:

Salmonellosis is an infection with a bacteria called Salmonella.

The Salmonella germ is actually a group of bacteria that can cause diarrheal illness in humans.  They are microscopic living creatures that pass from the feces of people or animals, to other people or other animals.

There are many different kinds of Salmonella bacteria:

Salmonella serotype Typhimurium and Salmonella serotype Enteritidis are the most common in the United States.  Salmonella has been known to cause illness for over 100 years.  They were discovered by a American scientist named Salmon, for whom they are named.


Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection.  The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment.  However, in some persons the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.  In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

Associated foods:

Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds.  Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. 

Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal.  Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but all foods, including vegetables, may become contaminated.  Many raw foods of animal origin are frequently contaminated, but fortunately, thorough cooking kills Salmonella.  Food may also become contaminated by the unwashed hands of an infected food handler, who forgot to wash his or her hands with soap after using the bathroom.


  •  Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly before eating. Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw unpasteurized milk.

  •  If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, don’t hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.

  •  Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.

  • Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.

  •  Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles or birds, or after contact with pet feces.

  •  Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, snakes) and infants or immunocompromised persons.

  •  Don’t work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.

  •  Mother’s milk is the safest food for young infants.  Breast-feeding prevents salmonellosis and many other health problems.


Salmonella infections usually resolve in 5-7 days and often do not require treatment unless the patient becomes severely dehydrated or the infection spreads from the intestines.  Persons with severe diarrhea may require rehydration, often with intravenous fluids.  Antibiotics are not usually necessary unless the infection spreads from the intestines, then it can be treated with ampicillin, gentamicin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, or ciprofloxacin.  

Unfortunately, some Salmonella bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, largely as a result of the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals.

People at risk:

Salmonellosis is more common in the summer than winter.  Children are the most likely to get salmonellosis.  Young children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised are the most likely to have severe infections.  It is estimated that approximately 1,000 persons die each year from acute salmonellosis.