You likely are aware of the primary precautions you should take to avoid salmonellosis food poisoning or you should be.
Outbreaks across the country have brought the problem to the attention of the public through the news media. You’ve read or seen reports of recalls for ground meat that has been infected with salmonella bacteria, or heard of the deaths or sicknesses cause by tainted, fresh spinach or undercooked hamburgers at fast food restaurants.
WebMD says that nationwide about 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported each year. But since milder cases that do not require hospitalization go unreported actual numbers could be 30 or more times greater.
Children are the most likely victims of salmonella food poisoning, although older adults or anyone with a weakened immune also is vulnerable.
WebMD cautions the public not to eat raw or undercooked eggs. It’s not just a warning about having a plate of runny, sunny-side-up fried eggs looking up at you from your breakfast platter, raw eggs frequently find their way into many, homemade favorites such as hollandaise sauce or Caesar and other salad dressings. Frosting or cookie dough can contain raw eggs, as well, as can mayonnaise or home-churned ice cream.
You can prevent your stomach from churning by cooking foods until they are well done and by avoiding raw or unpasteurized dairy products.
Raw vegetables and fruits can carry the salmonella bacterium, as well. So peel and wash the otherwise healthy produce before eating it.
Another big help is to avoid cross contamination. Keep uncooked meats separate from cooked foods, ready to eat foods or produce.
And maybe the best advice it to thoroughly wash your hands with hot soapy water before handling food or in between handling different food items. And you must keep cutting boards, counters and utensils sanitized.
But none of this has anything to do with a recent, multi-state outbreak reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
And, according to the Southern Nevada Health District, six cases have been reported in Clark County.
Five of the patients are under 5 years old; the other is an adult. Only one needed to be hospitalized and has recovered.
This time, the culprit is lurking in home aquariums.
“All six Clark County cases had contact with aquatic turtles that were kept as pets,” a health district announcement said July 2.
The bodies of reptiles are a good host for the bacteria. But the bacteria also can survive on cages, in aquariums or terrariums, or in the water the reptiles live in or swim in or any containers or surfaces touched by the cold-blooded pets.
Anything that a reptile touches should be considered a possible source of salmonella.
People won’t get sick unless they ingest the bacteria. That can happen all too easily if the unsuspecting pet-owners touch their mouths or food they or someone else is about to eat.
Clark County health officials say that the small, aquatic turtles with a shell length less than four inches have long been known to be a source of human salmonella infections, but iguanas, snakes and lizards also pose a threat.
But as well as pets, kids also are attracted to reptiles they find outside. Hafen Pond is a habitat for turtles and undeveloped areas in town still team with seemingly harmless reptiles, such as horned lizards. The Virgin River can be another source for creatures, but bears more serious threats for children.
Try to keep your children away from reptiles and where they live. And get them to wash their hands well and frequently.
Although it’s best not to have reptiles in the house if you have children, older adults or anyone suffering from a weakened immune system, many people still will.
It’s imperative that reptiles are not allowed to roam freely around the home. Nor should their cages or tanks be kept in the bedroom of a child younger than five years. And keep them away from food and beverage preparation areas.
For those who keep reptiles outside, caution still must be taken. Equipment, cages, dishes and tanks can pose a threat when they are being cleaned. And any used cleaning water should be treated as if it is infected.
You can’t tell if a reptile is infected. But you quickly learn if you are.
Within 12 to 72 hours after a person is infected the symptoms appear. They may include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. The illness tends to run its course in four to seven days.
Those who only have diarrhea usually recover completely, although it may take several months before the person is totally confident to get far from a restroom.
But reptiles aren’t the only animals that can carry the bacteria. Baby chicks and amphibians, such as frogs and toads, also are known carriers.
With this current outbreak, local parents must warn their children about the dangers of handling animals, especially reptiles.
More information about the bacteria and disease can be found on the CDC’s website at: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/. Updated information about the Southern Nevada Health District can be found on Facebook www.facebook.com/SouthernNevadaHealthDistrict, on YouTube www.youtube.com/SNHealthDistrict or Twitter: www.twitter.com/SNHDinfo.
And the health district is now available in Spanish on Twitter www.twitter.com/TuSNHD.
Learn all you can, or you may find the scales are tipped against you.