Questions and Answers
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacteria that makes people sick. It was discovered by an American scientist named Dr. Salmon, and has been known to cause illness for over 125 years. The illness people get from a Salmonella infection is called salmonellosis.
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most individuals recover without treatment. In some cases, diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites. In these cases, Salmonella can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness1.
How Common is Salmonella Infection?
CDC estimates Salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths in the United States every year.2 Among these illnesses, about 1.1 million are acquired in the United States. Among the illnesses acquired in the United States, CDC estimates that food is the source for about 1 million illnesses, 19,000 hospitalizations, and 380 deaths.
There are many different kinds of Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella serotype Typhimurium [PDF – 15 pages] and Salmonella serotype Enteritidis [PDF – 15 pages] are the most common in the United States3. Salmonella infections are more common in the summer than winter. Learn more about Salmonella serotypes.
Who is at Highest Risk for Salmonella Infection?
Children are at the highest risk for Salmonella infection. Children under the age of 5 [PDF – 36 pages] have higher rates of Salmonella infection than any other age group3. Young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are the most likely to have severe infections4.
Are there Long-Term Consequences to a Salmonella Infection?
People with diarrhea due to a Salmonella infection usually recover completely, although it may be several months before their bowel habits are entirely normal.
A small number of people with Salmonella develop pain in their joints. This is called reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis can last for months or years and can lead to chronic arthritis, which can be difficult to treat1. Antibiotic treatment of the initial Salmonella infection does not make a difference in whether or not the person develops arthritis1. People with reactive arthritis can also develop irritation of the eyes and painful urination5.
- CDC. Braenderup infections linked to nut butter: Clinical Features/ Signs and Symptoms. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC. 2014.
- Scallan E, Hoekstra RM, Angulo FJ, Tauxe RV, Widdowson MA, Roy SL, Jones JL, Griffin PM. Foodborne illness acquired in the United States–major pathogens [PDF – 9 pages]. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2011;17(1):7-15.
- CDC. Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet): FoodNet Surveillance Report for 2012 (Final Report) [PDF 9 – pages]. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC. 2014.
- CDC. Suspecting Foodborne Illnesses in Special Populations: Quick Facts for Providers. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC. 2012.
- Carter JD, Hudson AP. Reactive arthritis: clinical aspects and medical management. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2009 Feb; 35(1): 21-44.
- Page last reviewed: March 9, 2015
- Page last updated: March 5, 2018
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