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Guidance for Personnel Working with Hooved Mammals and Reptiles at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

What is Salmonella?

Salmonellosis is an infection with the bacteria Salmonella. Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment. However, in some people diarrhea is more severe and hospitalization is necessary.

How is Salmonella spread?

Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but all foods, including vegetables, can become contaminated. Food may also become contaminated by the hands of an infected food handler who neglected to wash his hands with soap after using the bathroom. Salmonella may also be found in the feces of some pets, especially those with diarrhea, and people can become infected if they do not wash their hands after contact with these feces. Reptiles are particularly likely to harbor Salmonella and people should always wash their hands immediately after handling a reptile, even if the reptile is healthy.

Who is at risk for infection?

Healthy people are less likely to become sick from Salmonella because normal stomach acidity prevents the growth of bacteria. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.

Is Salmonella infection serious?

Persons with diarrhea usually recover completely, although it may be several months before their bowel habits are entirely normal. In some persons 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 and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. A small number of people may develop chronic symptoms due to reactive arthritis.

How can I protect myself?

  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating or preparing food, after using the toilet, after changing diapers, and after touching pets or other animals, particularly reptiles or birds.
  • Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly before eating. Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs or raw unpasteurized milk. Refrigerate leftover foods promptly.
  • Clean and disinfect hard surfaces that have contacted raw animal products or infected animals.
  • If you develop persistent diarrhea, with or without a fever, or if the diarrhea is very bad, call your doctor or health care center for advice.

 What are the signs of Salmonella infection?

The most common symptoms are:

  • stomach cramps/ abdominal pain
  • headache
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Symptoms can take up to three days to show up, but most often begin 12 to 36 hours after the bacteria are swallowed. Symptoms generally last for several days.

 What do I do if an exposure or injury occurs?

Exposure to aerosols, bites or scratches involving animals or injuries from objects contaminated with body fluids from animals require immediate first aid and medical attention. Notify your supervisor! Then, contact the University Police Department at 593-2611 or dial 911.

This page was last updated on: October 9, 2015