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What is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a genus of rod-shaped, Gram-negative, non-spore forming, predominantly motile enterobacteria with diameters around 0.7 to 1.5 µm, lengths from 2 to 5 µm, and flagella which project in all directions (i.e. peritrichous). They obtain their energy from oxidation and reduction reactions using organic sources and are facultative anaerobes; most species produce hydrogen sulfide, which can readily be detected by growing them on media containing ferrous sulfate, such as TSI.

Salmonella are closely related to the Escherichia genus and are found worldwide in warm- and cold-blooded animals, in humans, and in nonliving habitats. They cause illnesses in humans and many animals, such as typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, and the foodborne illness salmonellosis.

Most cases of salmonellosis are caused by food infected with S. enterica, which often infects cattle and poultry, though also other animals such as domestic cats and hamsters have also been shown to be sources of infection to humans. However, investigations of vacuum cleaner bags have shown that households can act as a reservoir of the bacterium; this is more likely if the household has contact with an infection source, for example members working with cattle or in a veterinary clinic.

Humans that have been infected at one time with salmonella bacteria tend to be carriers of it. It is especially important that these individuals take extra care to prevent passing along salmonella to others. The likeliness of passing the bacteria can be lessened if the infected individual practices proper hand washing techniques after using the bathroom, and by wearing food handling gloves when preparing food.

Symptoms of salmonella infection are typically present with symptoms similar to the flu. Symptoms of salmonella include severe headaches, extreme abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. More than half of the instances of salmonella go undiagnosed and are written off as stomach flu. Symptoms of salmonella typically begin within 4-7 days of being infected with the bacteria. Medical attention should be sought for a proper diagnosis if symptoms are present for longer than 2 days especially in the extremely young or in seniors.