It seems every few months or so, we get a new warning about a salmonella outbreak. The food-borne illness sends about 19,000 people to the hospital each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It affects the intestinal tract and can cause serious problems, like dehydration. We got this email from a concerned viewer.

Dr. Manny,
I just got back from vacation where I was eating out constantly. Since then, I haven't been feeling very well. I have cramps and diarrhea. How do I know if I have salmonella versus another gastrointestinal condition?
Adrian

The only way to diagnose salmonella poisoning is through a test of your blood or stool. You should go to the doctor to get tested if you have the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Symptoms usually last for five to seven days and eventually go away on their own. To prevent the disease from becoming a serious issue, you need to stay hydrated.

Infants, adults over 65 and those with a weakened immune system are more likely to develop a much more serious disease with more severe symptoms. If you fall in this category the CDC recommends you take antibiotics.

To avoid getting infected with salmonella, there are some safety precautions that you can take.

Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after:

  • Using the bathroom
  • Changing a diaper
  • Handling raw meat or poultry
  • Cleaning up pet feces
  • Touching reptiles or birds

The Mayo Clinic offers other tips to keep salmonella at bay including:

  • Keeping meats, poultry and seafood separate from other foods
  • Use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables
  • Keep cooked food away from contaminated surfaces
  • Avoid eating raw unpasteurized eggs