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Jan. 30, 2023

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Salmonella outbreak reaches Washington state, how to stay safe and prevent the infection

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A nationwide salmonella outbreak has spread to Washington, with 37 cases in the state and more than 1,000 cases confirmed across the country, according to a statement from the Whatcom County Health Department.

The cases in Washington and across the U.S. have been linked to backyard poultry, such as chickens and ducks, with cases spreading throughout all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Salmonella causes about 420 deaths, 26,500 hospitalizations and 1.35 million infections in America each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So how can you stay safe from the outbreak? Here’s what you need to know about salmonella, its symptoms and how you can prevent getting sick.

Salmonella symptoms

According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of salmonella can include:

  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Blood in the stool.
  • Chills.

Symptoms of salmonella usually begin anywhere within six hours to six days after you are infected, and typically last four to seven days, according to the CDC.

How to prevent salmonella

People often get infected by salmonella by eating or drinking food or water that has been contaminated by infected animals or people, according to the Washington State Department of Health. Foods such as eggs, raw poultry and unpasteurized milk and cheese products are the most common salmonella sources. Produce, candy, spices, beverages and cereal have also been associated with salmonella outbreaks.

Contact with infected animals such as turtles, poultry, chicks, cattle, iguanas and other reptiles can also expose people to the infection.

The CDC has a few tips to prevent salmonella infections:

  • Always wash your hands after any contact with an animal.
  • Wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers or helping someone with diarrhea use the restroom.
  • If you have a salmonella infection, do not prepare food for others until your symptoms are gone.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods, leftovers and prepared foods within two hours of their preparation, or within one hour if the temperature outside or in your car is at least 90 degrees.
  • Do not kiss animals or pets, or put your hands in your mouth after petting or playing with animals. Do not put items that have come into contact with an animal into your mouth.
  • Clean your pet’s bed and items regularly.
  • Do not eat or drink around high-risk animals such as turtles, chickens or ducks, or near their habitats.
  • Do not let those with weakened immune systems, such as children 5 years of age and under and older adults, touch high-risk animals.
  • Take care of your pet by taking them to the veterinarian regularly.

The state’s health department also suggests a few ways to prevent salmonella:

  • Wrap fresh meat and poultry in plastic bags at grocery stores to prevent blood from dripping on other foods in your cart.
  • Only buy inspected eggs, animal food products, milk products and pasteurized milk products.
  • Defrost meat and poultry in a refrigerator and minimize its time at room temperature.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meats, poultry and eggs.
  • Immediately wash counters and cutting boards that have been used to prepare meat or poultry.

How to treat salmonella

The CDC encourages you to call your doctor if you have these symptoms of the infection:

  • A fever above 102 degrees and diarrhea.
  • Prolonged vomiting and not being able to keep liquids down.
  • Signs of dehydration including dizziness when standing up, making very little urine, dry throat and dry mouth.
  • Bloody stool or diarrhea that lasts more than three days and does not improve.

Salmonella can be detected through laboratory tests by your doctor, and most people recover from salmonella without special treatments, the CDC states. Antibiotics are typically prescribed for those with serious illnesses, and the CDC recommends that infected persons drink extra fluids as symptoms persist.

In severe cases, patients are hospitalized for extreme symptoms or if the infection spreads to the bloodstream and throughout the body, according to the CDC.

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