What is Salmonella?

What is Salmonella?

People frequently mistakenly define Salmonella to be the sickness, but this is a misconception. Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause a salmonellosis infection. Individuals with weak immune systems such as older adults and children under the age of 5 are most susceptible to getting a salmonella infection. The Center for Disease Control estimates over one million people are diagnosed with salmonella infection causing 19,000 people to be hospitalized and 380 deaths annually.

While salmonella bacteria can occur in various foods and environments, they are most prominent in raw meat and dairy products. Specifically, eggs, meat, poultry, unpasteurized raw milk and cheese are the most susceptible. In addition, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables such as alfalfa sprouts, nuts, and spices can carry salmonella. People are advised to wash these produce items thoroughly or to cook them before consuming. Also, parents should be cautious in allowing children to touch animals and reptiles as they carry the salmonella virus and can be ingested through the mouth.

Symptoms and Treatment

Medical professionals diagnose salmonella by taking a blood or stool sample from patients. Salmonella symptoms include abdominal cramps, fever, and diarrhea. These symptoms can last up to 72 hours. If symptoms last more than 72 hours, or there is blood in your stool, you should seek a health care professional. However, in most cases, patients recover without treatment within 7 days.


There are several measures you can follow to prevent contracting salmonella bacteria. Guidelines include:

  • Store raw foods in separate compartments in the fridge
  • Avoid consuming raw, unpasteurized dairy foods or undercooked meat and poultry
  • Wash hands thoroughly after visiting the restroom
  • Keep raw meats and raw vegetables separate during preparation to avoid cross contamination
  • Wash raw produce thoroughly before cooking
  • Consume ready to eat foods as soon as possible
  • Do not consume suspicious smelling or looking food

Types of Salmonella

As stated previously, salmonella is the bacteria that causes the sickness. There are several strains of bacteria that belong to the Salmonella genus. Most of these bacteria share identical components of DNA. The three types, or serovars, of Salmonella are Enteritidis, Typhimurium, and Typhi. Out of the three, Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Typhi cause most foodborne illnesses. However, symptoms of Salmonella Typhimurium are not as sever as Typhi, and Typhimurium is less severe.

Sub-species Animal Host Type
Salmonella Choleraesuis Swine
Salmonella Dublin Cattle
Salmonella Enteritidis Humans, rodents, galliformes
Salmonella Gallinarum Galliformes
Salmonella Hadar Humans, galliformes, rabbits
Salmonella Heidelberg Humans, galliformes, swine
Salmonella Infantis Humans, poultry
Salmonella Paratyphi Humans
Salmonella Typhi Humans
Salmonella Typhimurium Infects humans, cattle, swine, sheep, horses, rodents, galliformes


There have been numerous salmonella outbreaks in the United States in recent years. Below are recent outbreaks.

2016 Salmonella Outbreaks

Dairy Bull Calves – Salmonella Heidelberg
Shell Eggs – Salmonella Oranienburg
Alfalfa Sprouts – Salmonella Reading and Salmonella Abony
Live Poultry – Salmonella Infections
Pistachios – Salmonella Montevideo
Alfalfa Sprouts – Salmonella Muenchen and Salmonella Kentucky
Organic Shake & Meal Products – Salmonella Virchow

2015 Salmonella Outbreaks

Raw Sprouted Nut Butter Spreads – Salmonella Paratyphi B variant L tartrate
Small Turtles – Salmonella Sandiego and Salmonella Poona
Cucumbers – Salmonella Poona
Pork – Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- and Salmonella Infantis
Raw, Frozen, Stuffed Chicken Entrees – Salmonella Enteritidis
Raw, Frozen, Stuffed Chicken Entrees – Salmonella Enteritidis
Live Poultry – Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Hadar, Salmonella Indiana, and Salmonella Muenchen
Frozen Raw Tuna – Salmonella Paratyphi B variant L(+) tartrate(+) (+) and Salmonella Weltevreden
Pet Crested Geckos – Salmonella Muenchen

Find more information at our Foodborne Illness on other causes of Salmonella and ways of treating and preventing food poisoning.