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What is the deal with Salmonella and eggs??

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What is the deal with Salmonella and eggs??

Since there has been a major egg recall recently and I have been asked about it a lot, I thought that I would explain about salmonella (signs and symptom of infection)  and how these major egg infections can occur...and also discuss that this is not the first time that Iowa farms have been the source of major salmonella outbreaks across the US!!

First of all, the bacteria, Salmonella enterica, has been around for eons, but it has found easier ways to reach humans because of the way that we currently mass produce and farm our animals for food.  There are roughly 1.5 million cases of salmonella a year and 142,000 are traced back to egg related infections which led to the FDA creating stricter egg safety rules for farmers, and they are hoping that around 80,000 of the infections from eggs will be prevented.  In the 1920-30's people very rarely ate eggs because of the rate of salmonella infections. In 1980 there was a huge outbreak stemming from a few Iowa farms and one that was pretty large infecting most of New England that stemmed from at CT farm.  This caused a huge ruckus leading to huge studies of why  these infections occurred; scientists found that there was, what is known as, vertical transmission (and infected hen can transmit the infection to the egg through the bloodstream), which becomes really important for modern day farmers!

If any of you have seen Food, Inc., you know that fowl is not treated so nicely, and they live in less than ideal housing.  Salmonella can be transmitted through food and fecal matter; these hens live in their own feces and get infected through housing or through their food, and transmit it to the eggs, plus there are so many in each hen house that the Industrial production farmers have no way of finding infected fowl, and thus the outbreak cycle begins and ends up on our tables!  Plus  Industrial farms tend to starve the chicks to make them 'molt' thus they are able to have more egg laying years, but like anyone/thing that is malnourished, they are at a higher risk for infection.

There are over 2000 types of salmonella strains and of those around 12 of them cause an infection, which is usually diarrhea that you wouldn't really think was anything horrible and will pass quickly, but 3 or 4 can cause typhoid fever which can be deadly.  As stated above, it can be contracted by eating raw or undercooked meat, eggs, and egg products.

What are the signs and symptoms of Salmonella infection?
-Nausea
-Vomiting
-Diarrhea
-Fever
-Chills
-Headache
-Muscle pains
-Blood in the stool

The signs/symptoms of Typhoid Fever are a little more specific, and the incubation period is 5 to 21 days:
-Diarrhea or constipation
-Fever over 102F (38.8C)
-Slightly raised rose colored spots on your upper chest
-Cough
-Change in mental status (confusion)
-Slowing of the heart rate
-Enlarged liver and spleen (abdominal tenderness can occur)

What do you do if you think you have Salmonella?
Call your HCP and they will want you to bring in a sample of your stool (poop), and they may draw blood to test for a bloodstream infection.

Treatment?
Your HCP may suggest and antidiarrheal drug (I tend not to suggest them because it can cause the salmonella to stay in your system for longer, so I think that it is better out than in, and poop it out!!)
Also, you will be placed on an antibiotic to kill of the infection.
If you have typhoid fever, you will be placed on Intravenous fluids and most likely given intravenous antibiotics at first (depending on extent of infection) and it will be cleared in 2-4 weeks.

Prevention
Remember that salmonella is highly contagious so please wash your hands after going to the bathroom, handling raw meats/eggs, changing diapers, picking up after pets, and after touching reptiles and birds.  As well, be especially careful if you are infected around infants, elderly, and the immunocompromised.

I tend to only purchase eggs from small local farms, where the hens are free range and the birds are fed appropriate food, which puts them at a MUCH lower risk for salmonella, plus I don't tend to eat raw eggs too often, and cooking eggs thoroughly usually kills off the bacteria. I also wash my hands a lot (habit of the job)!  And, if you think you are infected, call your HCP and get in to be seen right away!  I hope this clears up some of the confusion around the egg recall and why salmonella is such a problem with eggs, specifically!

Yours in Good Health
B

2 Comments:

At September 14, 2010 at 2:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nurse, I think it is great that you are spreading your knowledge like this. There are a couple of things that I would like to correct.

"If any of you have seen Food, Inc.,"

That is not the most reliable movie. You should seek out a more balanced source.

" you know that fowl is not treated so nicely, and they live in less than ideal housing."

consider the source above, it is a movie that was produced to make you suspicious of where your food comes from. It is a sensational look at things. Modern laying facilities are much better than those of the 70's or 80's. The housing styles have changed. The Iowa farm was not managed well and not necessarily representative of the trade.


" Salmonella can be transmitted through food and fecal matter;"

True

" these hens live in their own feces"

False - they are raised in cages and the manure drops through. The cages are either in an A frame so that they are not over one another, or there are manure belts between the cages. The farms that had the problem are of the former type, the second type is a newer style and a little nicer.

" and get infected through housing or through their food, and transmit it to the eggs,"

True. Rodents are the main vector as I understand it.

"plus there are so many in each hen house that the Industrial production farmers have no way of finding infected fowl,"

Egg safety programs in several states have resulted in excellent safety of eggs in recent years. I would name states but you can check if your state has an egg safety program or not. In our state we have been checking for years and have not had an outbreak traced back to a farm in the program since it started in the 90's.



" and thus the outbreak cycle begins and ends up on our tables! Plus Industrial farms tend to starve the chicks to make them 'molt' thus they are able to have more egg laying years, but like anyone/thing that is malnourished, they are at a higher risk for infection."

Feed withdrawal molting is no longer an accepted practice.

Just wanted to clear up a few things.

 
At September 14, 2010 at 2:47 PM , Blogger Nurse Bridgid said...

Thank you for reading and for your comments, however, I was not basing anything on food Inc, I was merely mentioning that it is a movie that many people have seen, and you cannot refute that the treatment of animals in Industrial farms is completely acceptable or appropriate.

I appreciate your input, but can I ask your background? As I researched this topic extensively from FDA, DPH, and various medical journals, as I always do, and I was explaining the current salmonella outbreak, which, as you agreed was due to poor management of the farms, and in fact the hens were infected from their own feces, according to the investigators of the problem.

As well, I am in no way telling people that eggs are unsafe....and I apologize if you got that impression! I was merely wanting people to understand the recall and how to know i they have been infected with salmonella...from eggs, meat, feces, etc. As well, whilst molting is no longer an accepted practice, you cannot say that it doesn't happen as a fact at every farm.

As for the egg safety program, I discussed that the FDA just mandated (71 pages) egg safety rules for the US, but just like in anything else, there are people that will break rules, and that is why there are these outbreaks...otherwise we wouldn't need stricter rules and recall eggs, right??

 

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