Illnesses

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  • Noro-viruses
  • Salmonella
  • Staphylococcus
  • Shigella
  • E-Coli
  • Listeria
  • Hepatitis A

Noroviruses

Noroviruses are the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis (infection of the stomach and intestines) in theUnited States. Norovirus illness spreads easily and is often called stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis,

People who are infected can spread it directly to other people, or can contaminate food or drinks they prepare for other people. The virus can also survive on surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus or be spread through contact with an infected person.

Sources

Produce, shellfish, ready-to-eat foods touched by infected food workers (salads, sandwiches, ice, cookies, fruit), or any other foods contaminated with vomit or feces from an infected person

Incubation Period

12-48 hours

Symptoms

Diarrhea, vomiting, nausea,and stomach pain. Diarrhea tends to be watery and non-bloody. Diarrhea is more common in adults and vomiting is more common in children

Duration of Illness

1-3 days. Among young children, old adults, and hospitalized patients, it can last 4-6 days.

What Do I Do?

Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. If you cannot drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration, call your doctor.

How Do I Prevent It?

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, particularly after using the bathroom and before preparing food.
  • If you work in a restaurant or deli, avoid bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces contaminated by vomiting or diarrhea (use a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the label). Clean and disinfect food preparation equipment and surfaces.
  • If you are ill with diarrhea or vomiting, do not cook, prepare, or serve food for others.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
  • Wash clothing or linens soiled by vomit or fecal matter immediately. Remove the items carefully to avoid spreading the virus. Machine wash and dry.

Salmonella

Salmonella, the name of a group of bacteria, is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States. Usually, symptoms last 4-7 days and most people get better without treatment. But, Salmonella can cause more serious illness in older adults, infants, and persons with chronic diseases. Salmonella is killed by cooking and pasteurization.

Sources

  • Food: Contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables (alfalfa sprouts, melons), spices, and nuts
  • Animals and their environment: Particularly reptiles (snakes, turtles, lizards), amphibians (frogs), birds (baby chicks) and pet food and treats.

Incubation Period

12-72 hours

Symptoms

Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting

Duration of Illness

4-7 days

What Do I Do?

Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. If you cannot drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration or if your symptoms are severe, call your doctor. Antibiotics may be necessary if the infection spreads from the intestines to the blood stream.

How Can I Prevent It?

  • Avoid eating high-risk foods, including raw or lightly cooked eggs, undercooked ground beef or poultry, and unpasteurized milk
  • Keep food properly refrigerated before cooking.
  • Clean hands with soap and warm water before handling food. Clean surfaces before preparing food on them.
  • Separate cooked foods from ready-to-eat foods. Do not use utensils on cooked foods that were previously used on raw foods and do not place cooked foods on plates where raw foods once were unless it has been cleaned thoroughly.
  • Cook foods to a safe internal temperature. Use a meat thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to a safe temperature.
  • Chill foods promptly after serving and when transporting from one place to another.
  • Wash your hand after contact with animals, their food or treats, or their living environment.

Staphylococcus

Staphylococcus aureus (or Staph aureus) is a type of bacteria commonly found on the skin and hair as well as in the noses and throats of people and animals. These bacteria are present in up to 25 percent of healthy people and are even more common among those with skin, eye, nose, or throat infections.

Staphylococcus
can cause food poisoning when a food handler contaminates food and then the food is not properly refrigerated. Other sources of food contamination include the equipment and surfaces on which food is prepared. These bacteria multiply quickly at room temperature to produce a toxin that causes illness. Staphylococcus is killed by cooking and pasteurization.

Sources

Foods that are made with hand contact and require no additional cooking, such as:

  • Salads, such as ham, egg, tuna, chicken, potato, and macaroni
  • Bakery products, such as cream-filled pastries, cream pies, and chocolate éclairs
  • Sandwiches

Other sources include milk and dairy products, as well as meat, poultry, eggs, and related products.

Incubation Period

1-6 hours

Symptoms

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe abdominal cramps, mild fever

Duration of Illness

24-48 hours

What Do I Do?

Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. If you cannot drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration, call your doctor.

How Can I Prevent Illness?

  • Wash hands and under fingernails vigorously with soap and water before handling and preparing food.
  • Do not prepare food if you have a nose or eye infection.
  • Do not prepare or serve food for others if you have wounds or skin infections on your hands or wrists.
  • Keep kitchens and food-serving areas clean and sanitized.
  • If food is prepared more than two hours before serving, keep hot foods hot (over 140° F) and cold foods cold (40° F or under).
  • Store cooked food in a wide, shallow container and refrigerate as soon as possible.

.

Shigella

Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by Shigella. The Shigella germ is a family of bacteria that can cause diarrhea in humans. People with shigellosis shed the bacteria in their feces. The bacteria can spread from an infected person to contaminate water or food, or directly to another person. Getting just a little bit of the Shigella bacteria into your mouth is enough to cause symptoms.

The illness is most commonly seen in child-care settings and schools. Shigellosis is a cause of traveler’s diarrhea, from contaminated food and water in developing countries.

Sources

Contaminated food or water, or contact with an infected person. Foods most often associated with Shigella outbreaks are salads and sandwiches that involve a lot of hand contact in their preparation, and raw vegetables contaminated in the field.

Incubation Period

1 -7 days (usually 1-3 days)

Symptoms

Sudden abdominal cramping, fever, diarrhea that may be bloody or contains mucus, nausea and vomiting

Duration of Illness

2-7 days

Who’s at Risk?

Children, especially toddlers aged 2-4

What Do I Do?

Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. Stay home from school or work to avoid spreading the bacteria to others. If you cannot drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration, call your doctor.

How Do I Prevent It?
  • Wash hands with soap carefully and frequently, especially after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing foods or beverages.
  • Dispose of soiled diapers properly
  • Disinfect diaper changing areas after using them.
  • Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings while they are ill.
  • Supervise handwashing of toddlers and small children after they use the toilet.
  • Do not prepare food for others while ill with diarrhea
  • Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or untreated pools.
  • When traveling in developing countries, drink only treated or boiled water, and eat only cooked hot foods or fruits you peel yourself.

Vibrio vulnificus

Vibrio vulnificus (V. vulnificus) and Vibrio parahaemolyticus (V. parahaemolyticus) are bacteria that occur naturally in warm coastal areas, such as theGulf of Mexico. These bacteria are found in higher concentrations in the summer months when water gets warmer.

Vibrios typically cause disease in people who eat contaminated seafood.

  • V. parahaemolyticus typically causes non-bloody diarrhea.
  • In persons with liver disease, cancer, or another immune-compromising condition, V. vulnificus typically infects the bloodstream, causing a  life-threatening illness. About half of V. vulnificus bloodstream infections are fatal, and death can occur within two days. In addition to transmission by raw shellfish, V. vulnificus can enter the body via a wound that is exposed to warm seawater

Sources

Raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly raw oysters

Incubation Period

  • V. vulnificus: 1-7 days
  • V. parahaemolyticus: 2-48 hours

Symptoms

  • In healthy individuals: Diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain
  • In high-risk individuals: Sudden chills, fever, shock, skin lesions

Duration of Illness

2-8 days

What Do I Do?

If you develop severe illness within a few days after eating raw or undercooked shellfish or after being exposed to warm coastal water, contact your doctor.

How Can I Prevent Illness? Avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish.

E. coli

E. coli is the name of a type of bacteria that lives in your intestines and in the intestines of animals. Although most types of E. coli are harmless, some types can make you sick.

The worst type of E. coli, causes bloody diarrhea and can sometimes cause kidney failure and even death.  A specific strain of E.coli makes a toxin called Shiga toxin and is known as a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).  There are many other types of STEC, and some can make you just as sick as E. coli O157:H7.

One severe complication associated with E. coli infection is hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The infection produces toxic substances that destroy red blood cells, causing kidney injury. HUS can require intensive care, kidney dialysis, and transfusions.

Sources

  • Contaminated food, especially undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized (raw) milk and juice, soft cheeses made from raw milk, and raw fruits and vegetables (such as sprouts)
  • Contaminated water, including drinking untreated water and swimming in contaminated water
  • Animals and their environment: particularly cows, sheep, and goats. If you don’t wash your hands carefully after touching an animal or its environment, you could get an E. coli infection
  • Feces of infected people

Incubation Period

1-10 days

Symptoms

Severe diarrhea that is often bloody, severe abdominal pain, and vomiting. Usually, little or no fever is present. Symptoms of HUS include decreased urine production, dark or tea-colored urine, and facial pallor.

Duration of Illness

5-10 days. Most people will be better in 6-8 days.

If HUS develops, it usually occurs after about 1 week.

What Do I Do?

Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. If you cannot drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration or if your symptoms are severe (including blood in your stools or severe abdominal pain), call your doctor. Antibiotics should not be used to treat this infection.

How Can I Prevent It?

  • Avoid eating high-risk foods, especially undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk or juice, soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, or alfalfa sprouts.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure that ground beef has reached a safe internal temperature of 160° F.
  • Wash hands before preparing food, after diapering infants, and after contact with cows, sheep, or goats, their food or treats, or their living environment .

Listeria

Listeria is the name of a bacteria found in soil and water and some animals, including poultry and cattle. It can be present in raw milk and foods made from raw milk. It can also live in food processing plants and contaminate a variety of processed meats.

Listeria is unlike many other germs because it can grow even in the cold temperature of the refrigerator. Listeria is killed by cooking and pasteurization.

Sources

  • Ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs
  • Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and dairy products
  • Soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, such as queso fresco, Feta, Brie, Camembert
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Raw sprouts

Incubation Period

3-70 days

Symptoms

Fever, stiff neck, confusion, weakness, vomiting, sometimes preceded by diarrhea

Duration of Illness

Days to weeks

Who’s at Risk?

  • Older adults
  • Pregnant women
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Organ transplant patients who are receiving drugs to prevent the body from rejecting the organ
  • People with certain diseases, such as:
    • HIV/AIDS or other autoimmune diseases
    • Cancer
    • End-stage renal disease
    • Liver disease
    • Alcoholism
    • Diabetes

What Do I Do?

If you are very ill with fever or stiff neck, consult your doctor immediately. Antibiotics given promptly can cure the infection and, in pregnant women, can prevent infection of the fetus.

How Do I Prevent It?

  • Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk, and do not eat foods that have unpasteurized milk in them.
  • Wash hands, knives, countertops, and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.
  • Rinse raw produce thoroughly under running tap water before eating.
  • Keep uncooked meats, poultry, and seafood separate from vegetables, fruits, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as meat, poultry, or seafood to a safe internal temperature.
  • Wash hands, knives, countertops, and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.
  • Consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible.
  • Persons in higher risk groups should heat hot dogs, cold cuts, and deli meats before eating them.

 

 

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. The disease is spread primarily through food or water contaminated by stool from an infected person.

Hepatitis A is one of the few foodborne or waterborne illnesses that can be prevented by  vaccination. Vaccination is recommended for all children age 12 months and older, for travelers to certain countries, and for people at high risk for infection with the virus.

Sources

Raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated waters, raw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler

Incubation Period

28 days average (ranges from 15 to 50 days)

Symptoms

Diarrhea, dark urine, jaundice, fever, headache, nausea, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite

Duration of Illness

Variable, from 2 weeks to 3 months

What Do I Do?

See your doctor if you have signs or symptoms of hepatitis A or think you may have been exposed to the virus. Tests can accurately diagnose whether you’ve been infected.

How Can I Prevent It?

  • Avoid eating raw oysters or other raw or undercooked shellfish.
  • For adults: Get vaccinated if you are exposed to a person infected with hepatitis A, or if you are planning to travel to a country with high rates of hepatitis A
  • For children: Get vaccinated against hepatitis A.
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