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Alternative Names Return to topSalmonellosis
Definition Return to top
Salmonella enterocolitis is an infection in the lining of the small intestine caused by Salmonella bacteria.
Causes Return to top
Salmonella enterocolitis is one of the most common types of food poisoning. It occurs when you swallow food or water that is contaminated with the salmonella bacteria. Any food can become contaminated if food preparation conditions and equipment are unsanitary.
You are more likely to get this type of infection if you have:
Approximately 40,000 people develop salmonella infection in the United States each year. Most patients are younger than 20. The highest rate occurs from July through October.
Symptoms Return to top
The time between infection and symptom development is 8 - 48 hours. Symptoms include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
The doctor will perform a physical exam. You may have signs of a tender abdomen and tiny pink spots on the skin called rose spots.
Tests that may be done include:
Treatment Return to top
The goal of treatment is to replace fluids and electrolytes lost by diarrhea. Electrolyte solutions are available without a prescription. Antidiarrheal medications are generally not given because they may prolong the infection. If you have severe symptoms, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
People with diarrhea who are can't drink anything due to nausea may need medical attention and intravenous fluids. This is especially true for small children. Fever and aches can be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
If you take diuretics, you may need to stop taking them during the acute episode, when diarrhea is present. Ask your health care provider for instructions.
Changing your diet while you have diarrhea may help reduce symptoms. This may include avoiding milk products and following a BRAT diet. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These are binding foods that make the stools firmer.
Infants should continue to breastfeed and receive electrolyte replacement solutions as directed by your health care provider.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcome is usually good. In otherwise healthy people, symptoms should go away in 2 - 5 days.
The acute illness lasts for 1 - 2 weeks. The bacteria is shed in the feces for months in some treated patients. Some people who shed the bacteria have a carrier state for 1 year or more after the infection.
Possible Complications Return to top
Dehydration from diarrhea, especially in young children and infants, is a dangerous complication. Life-threatening meningitis and septicemia may also occur. Food handlers who become carriers can pass the infection along to the people who eat their food.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if there is blood in the stools, or if there is no improvement after 2-3 days. Also call if any of the following occurs:
Prevention Return to top
Proper food handling and storage can help prevent Salmonella enterocolitis. Good hand washing is important, especially when handling eggs and poultry.
If you own a reptile, wear gloves when handling the animal or its feces because animals can easily pass Salmonella to humans.
References Return to top
Montes M, DuPont HL. Enteritis, enterocolitis and infectious diarrhea syndromes. In: Cohen J, Powderly WG, eds. Infectious Diseases. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Elsevier;2004: chap 43.
Pegues DA, Ohl ME, Miller SI. Salmonella species, including Salmonella typhi. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2005: chap 220.
Giannella RA. Infectious enteritis and proctocolitis and bacterial food poisoning. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Sleisenger MH, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2006: chap 104.Update Date: 11/2/2008 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed byDavid Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.