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Food poisoning is a general term for health problems arising from eating food contaminated by viruses, chemicals, or bacterial toxins. Types of food poisoning include bacterial food poisoning, shellfish poisoning, and mushroom poisoning. The medical term for food poisoning is gastroenteritis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are up to 33 million cases of food poisoning in the United States each year. Many cases are mild, and they pass so rapidly that they are never diagnosed. Occasionally, a severe outbreak creates a newsworthy public health hazard, but these instances are rare. Anyone can get food poisoning, but the very young, the very old, and those with compromised immune systems have the most severe and life-threatening cases.
General indications of food poisoning include diarrhea, stomach pain or cramps, gurgling sounds in the stomach, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Dehydration is a common complication, since fluids and electrolytes are lost through vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration is more
|Wild Pacific salmon|
likely to happen in the very young, the elderly, and people who are taking diuretics.
Bacteria are major causes of food poisoning. Symptoms of bacterial food poisoning occur because foodborne bacteria release enterotoxins, or poisons, as a byproduct of their growth in the body. These toxins often diminish the absorptive ability of the intestines and cause the secretion of water and electrolytes that leads to dehydration. The severity of symptoms depends on the type of bacteria, the amount of bacteria and food consumed, and the individual's health and sensitivity to the bacteria's toxin.
SALMONELLA. Symptoms of poisoning begin 12–72 hours after eating food contaminated with Salmonella. Classic food poisoning symptoms, including fever, occur for about two to five days. Salmonella is usually transmitted through the consumption of food contaminated by human or other animal feces. This contamination is mostly due to lack of hand washing by food handlers.
ESCHERICHIA COLI (E. COLI). Symptoms of food poisoning from E. coli 0157:H7 and similar strains of E. coli are slower to appear than those caused by some of the other foodborne bacteria. One to three days after eating contaminated food, the victim begins to have severe abdominal cramps and watery diarrhea that usually becomes bloody. The diarrhea may consist mostly of blood and very little stool, so the condition is sometimes called hemorrhagic colitis. There is little or no fever, the bloody diarrhea lasts from one to eight days, and the condition usually resolves by itself. Food contamination from E. coli O157:H7 has mostly been found in raw or undercooked ground beef. Raw milk has also been a source of food poisoning by E. coli.
CAMPYLOBACTER JEJUNI. C. jejuni infections are most often caused by contaminated chicken, but unchlorinated water and raw milk may also be sources of infection. Classic symptoms of food poisoning, including fever and diarrhea, begin two to five days after consuming food or water contaminated with C. jejuni. The diarrhea may be watery and may contain blood. Symptoms last from seven to 10 days, and relapses occur in about one quarter of the people who are infected.
STAPHYLOCOCCUS AUREUS (STAPH). Staph is spread primarily by food handlers with Staph infections on their skin. However, contaminated equipment and food preparation surfaces may also be at fault. Almost any food can be contaminated, but salad dressings, milk products, cream pastries, and food kept at room temperature, rather than hot or cold, are likely candidates. Classic symptoms of food poisoning appear rapidly, usually two to eight hours after the contaminated food is eaten. Such symptoms usually last only three to six hours and rarely more than two days. Most cases are mild and the victim recovers without any assistance.
SHIGELLA. Symptoms of food poisoning by Shigella appear 36–72 hours after eating contaminated food. These symptoms are slightly different from those associated with most foodborne bacteria. In addition to the familiar symptoms of food poisoning, up to 40% of children with severe infections show neurological symptoms. These include seizures, confusion, headache, lethargy, and a stiff, sore neck. The disease runs its course in two to three days.
CLOSTRIDIUM BOTULINUM. C. botulinum (commonly known as botulism) is the deadliest of the bacterial foodborne illnesses. Sources for adult botulism are
|SEAFOOD WITH EVIDENCE OF CHEMICALS AND TOXINS|
|Bass||Dioxin, chlordane, DDT, PCBs|
|Catfish||Chlordane, DDT, dioxin, PCBs, etc.|
|Caviar||Chlordane, DDT, PCBs|
|Shark||DDT, PCBs, mercury|
|Striped bass||PCBs, chlordane, DDT, mercury, etc.|
|Sturgeon||Chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, mercury, etc.|
|Swordfish||Mercury, DDT, PCBs|
often improperly canned or preserved food. Symptoms of adult botulism appear about 18 to 36 hours after the contaminated food is eaten, although there are documented times of onset ranging from four hours to eight days. Unlike other foodborne illnesses, there is no vomiting and diarrhea associated with botulism. Initially, a person suffering from botulism feels weakness, dizziness, and double vision. Symptoms progress to difficulty with speaking and swallowing. The toxins from C. botulinum are neurotoxins—they poison the nervous system, causing paralysis. If the disease proceeds unchecked, paralysis will move throughout the body. Eventually, without medical intervention, the respiratory muscles will become paralyzed and the victim will suffocate.
With infant botulism, the spores of C. botulinum lodge in the infant's intestinal tract. Honey, especially when consumed by infants younger than 12 months, is sometimes the source of these spores. Onset of the symptoms is gradual. The infant initially has constipation, followed by poor feeding, lethargy, weakness, drooling, and a distinctive wailing cry. Eventually the baby loses the ability to control its head muscles. Paralysis then progresses to the rest of the body.
Author Info: Patience Paradox, Teresa G. Odle, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005
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