Salmonella Facts: What You Should Know

Here are some things you need to know about the bacterium, salmonella.

ByABC News
August 24, 2010, 2:38 PM

Aug. 24, 2010 — -- While some shoppers may be running back to their grocers amidst concerns over one of the largest egg recalls in recent history, others may be headed for the doctors to find out more about the bacterium at the center of the controversy.

So far, nearly 2,000 people have reportedly gotten sick from the egg-related outbreak, which can be pinpointed back to a strain known as salmonella enteritis. According to Dr. Christopher Braden, acting director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's division of food-borne, waterborne and environmental diseases, this particular strain accounts for about 20 percent of all salmonella cases in the country.

"This is a large outbreak -- there is no doubt about that," Braden said. "It compares to some of the bigger outbreaks that we would've seen ... back in the 1980s and 1990s when we saw a lot of egg-associated salmonella [cases]."

Braden added that other types of pathogens are actually more common and far more invasive than salmonella.

Salmonellosis, or an infection of the bacteria salmonella, usually leads to diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after the infection. However, most patients can recover even after a week's bout without any treatment, so long as they remain hydrated.

The CDC estimates that potentially tens of thousands of people will become sick from the current outbreak.

People who could become extremely ill, especially if they are not on antibiotics, include infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

Also, in cases where patients suffer from extreme diarrhea, hospitalization and rehydration with intravenous fluids is strongly advised. Should the infection spread from the intestines to the blood stream and to other parts of the body, it could potentially become fatal.

To determine whether salmonella is in fact the cause of such distress, laboratory tests must be conducted on the stool of an infected person.