Food poisoning is an umbrella term for the range of disease symptoms and signs caused by eating food or water contaminated with pathogenic microbes and toxins. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and fever. There are many different types and forms of food poisoning, corresponding to different causative agents. Food may be contaminated by pathogenic bacteria like Campylobacter species, salmonella, shigella, listeria, Vibrio cholerae, and some species of E. coli; pathogenic viruses like norovirus and rotavirus; or parasites like protozoa, roundworm, and tapeworm. The incubation period and associated symptoms depend upon the type of infecting pathogen. Salmonellosis is pathogenic food poisoning caused due to infection by salmonella bacteria. Nonpathogenic instances occur due to ingestion of natural toxins like the ones present in poisonous mushrooms or due to chemically potent toxins like botulin produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. In case of food poisoning caused due to toxins, symptoms persist even after the microbe is eradicated from the body. Complete degradation or neutralization of the toxin is necessary to cure nonpathogenic food poisoning.
Symptoms and Signs
The symptoms of the most commonly occurring food poisoning caused by salmonella include feeling of nausea, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. Due to continuous diarrhea, the salmonella affected patient may show signs of dehydration with fever, which needs immediate care. The first signs of the disease generally appear after two to eight hours of ingestion of contaminated food. However, in some cases, symptoms may appear after a few days. In rare cases, the infected person does not show any signs of food poisoning but functions as a highly potent communicator of the disease. In extreme cases of salmonella food poisoning, diarrhea persists for two to three weeks. This causes inflammation in the joints and other signs of chronic arthritis, which leads to a disease called Reiter’s syndrome.
In specific cases of food poisoning, the pathogen or the toxin produced by the pathogen severely affects a particular organ or organ system. For instance, in botulism, the botulin toxin targets the nervous system and affects the normal functioning of the muscles in the face, eyes, and lungs. Mushroom-induced food poisoning exhibits signs of neurotoxicity, which include symptoms like sweating, vertigo, frothing from the mouth, with severe cases resulting in seizures or even coma. Patients of food poisoning caused due to consumption of contaminated shellfish show signs of weakness and paralysis. In extreme cases, symptoms make persist for weeks, causing permanent complications and even death.
Diagnosis and Cure
Diagnosis is usually based on its signs and symptoms. A physical examination is followed by blood and stool tests to identify the exact cause. The treatment involves administration of specific antibiotics in case of pathogenic contamination caused due to salmonella and antitoxins in case of nonpathogenic food poisoning caused due to toxins like botulism. The salmonella-affected patient gets dehydrated due to persistent diarrhea and is then advised to drink lots of fluids and oral rehydration solution (ORS) to replenish the water lost by the body. ORS can be made at home simply by adding salt and sugar in the ratio of 1:4 in water.
Following common hygienic procedures can be help prevent onset and communication of food poisoning. Washing hands with soap and water after touching animals or using the bathroom is a healthy practice, which helps in preventing contamination. Poultry and dairy products usually house salmonella bacteria, therefore consuming improperly cooked eggs and meat increases the risk of salmonella food poisoning. Processed food is usually infected with salmonella during processing and handling. Therefore, while eating processed or leftover foods from your refrigerator, make sure it is reheated to at least 167 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus is a good way to kill the microbes that may have developed in it, and thus, prevent food poisoning.
Though the condition is dreadful and painful, following some healthy practices can control food toxicity. Children should be educated about the signs and risks and encouraged to inculcate good hygiene.
© Newsmax. All rights reserved.