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Salmonella alert: what is the risk of consuming raw meats and poorly washed vegetables

Salmonella infection most often occurs through water or food, through what is known as cross contamination (Getty)

As it became known today, the Ministry of Health of the Nation and the Ministry of Public Health of Salta issued an epidemiological alert due to the increase in cases of paratyphoid fever -caused by the salmonella bacteria– in that province of northern Argentina.

In order to report on the risk situation and intensify prevention and control activities, in a document prepared by the Epidemiology areas of Salta and the Nation, the Malbrán Laboratory and the Department of Sanitary and Nutritional Food Surveillance, INAL-ANMAT, published in recent days, ensures that In the province, since epidemiological week 47 of the year 2017, cases have been registered with an increase in notifications every year and marked seasonality.

As reported by the authorities, the cases were confirmed by the National Reference Laboratory as enteric salmonella enteric subspecies serovar Paratyphi B.

In the National Health Surveillance System, from epidemiological week 1 to 45 of 2021, 1,088 notifications of Typhoid and Paratyphoid Fever, of which 1,069 correspond to residents in the province of Salta, mainly in the capital city and surrounding municipalities.

Clearly, the notifications coincide with the time of higher temperatures, since the highest number of cases occurred in the first weeks of the year, decreasing until autumn / winter and returning to register a sustained increase since Epidemiological Week 32, hovering around 100 notifications at 45.

Salmonella alert: what is the risk of consuming raw meats and poorly washed vegetables
The infection is always oral, that is, by eating contaminated food (Getty)

Salmonella infection or salmonellosis is a common bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract. Salmonella bacteria generally live in the intestines of animals and humans and are released through feces. Humans are most often infected through water or food, through what is known as cross contamination.

Foods that can often be infected include the following:

– Raw beef, poultry and fish: lfeces can get into raw meat and poultry during the slaughter process. Shellfish and fish can be contaminated if they are obtained from contaminated water.

– Raw eggs: While the eggshell may seem like a perfect barrier against contamination, some infected chickens produce salmonella-containing eggs before the shell forms . Raw eggs are used in homemade mayonnaise preparations, so specialists advise avoiding their consumption, especially in minors.

– Badly washed fruits and vegetables: Some fresh produce may have been irrigated in the field or washed during processing with salmonella-contaminated water, hence the importance of sanitize fruits and vegetables well before consumption. Contamination can also occur in the kitchen when juices from raw meat or poultry come into contact with uncooked foods, such as salads.

Istvan Szabo is a researcher in the group specialized in food microbiology and pathogen-host interaction from the Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in Germany and stated that the problem is precisely that contaminated food cannot be recognized by smell or by having a different color or other indication. That is why it is important to know that there may be salmonella in raw foods.

Salmonella alert: what is the risk of consuming raw meats and poorly washed vegetables
Some fresh produce may have been watered in the field or washed during processing with salmonella-contaminated water (Getty)

In that sense, the expert recommended that “It is very important to maintain good hygiene in the kitchen as well as to maintain adequate temperatures in transport, parking and food preparation.” According to the BfR, salmonella multiply at temperatures between 10 and 47 degrees. On the other hand, eggs and meat should always go to the refrigerator.

“To heat food well, there is a very simple indication,” Szabo said. When heating, all parts of the food must be subjected to 70 degrees for at least two minutes ”. Anyone who wants to be absolutely sure can control the temperature with a thermometer, the tip of which must be placed in the meat.

As for kitchen hygiene, he advised using different boards and knives to cut meat and vegetables. The boards should be as flat as possible and have no grooves or cuts, because salmonellae can live in these spaces no matter how much the board is washed.

Another tip from the experts is to dry what you wash well, since all microorganisms need moisture to multiply and survive.

The incubation period for salmonella infection ranges from several hours to two days. Most infections can be classified as viral gastroenteritis. Some of the possible signs and symptoms are:

– Nausea

– vomiting

– Abdominal cramps

– Diarrhea

– Fever

– Shaking chills

– Headache

– Blood in the stool

Salmonella alert: what is the risk of consuming raw meats and poorly washed vegetables
Most salmonella infections can be classified as viral gastroenteritis (Getty)

In general, these manifestations (in general some of them, not all) last from two to seven days. Diarrhea can last up to 10 days, although it may take several months for the intestines to return to normal.

Most healthy people recover within a few days without specific treatmentAlthough some varieties of salmonella bacteria cause typhoid fever, a life-threatening illness that is more common in developing countries.

In some cases, diarrhea associated with salmonella infection can be dehydrating to the point of requiring medical attention. Life-threatening complications can also occur if the infection spreads beyond the intestines. The risk of acquiring salmonella infection is greater in places with poor hygiene conditions.

According to the document issued by the Salta and national health portfolios, the document also indicates that, although cases are registered in all age groups, 63% of those notified this year are registered in children under 15 years of age.

Faced with this situation, the national and provincial portfolios recommended that all health teams strengthen the clinical-epidemiological suspicion of paratyphoid fever in people who meet the case definition and inform and sensitize the population about prevention measures and early warning before the appearance of the symptoms.


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