September 19, 2020

Who is at High Risk for Complications From Food Poisoning?

Every week Food Poisoning Bulletin tells you about outbreaks that have sickened, hospitalized, or even killed dozens and hundreds of people. The ironic thing about these outbreaks is that a good number of sick persons never see a doctor. Unless something goes seriously wrong. So who is at higher risk for developing serious complications from food poisoning?

Complications from food poisoning

Every year, about 1 in 6 Americans, or 48,000,000 people, contract some type of food poisoning infection. More than 120,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die.

Those who are more likely to get a foodborne illness in the first place are children under the age of 5, adults over the age of 65, anyone who has a chronic illness such as cancer or diabetes, and pregnant women. That’s why we stress that it is so important to follow food safety instructions when cooking and handling food, and why these populations should avoid some foods, including rare ground beef, undercooked eggs, raw sprouts, and unpasteurized milk and cider, completely.

Young children have immune systems that are still developing. Children who are under the age of 5 are three times more likely to contract a Salmonella infection than someone who is older. And children who contract a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection are more likely to develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which causes kidney failure.

The elderly are more at risk because their immune systems are starting to slow down and not work as well. Almost half of people over the age of 65 who do get food poisoning are hospitalized because of serious complications such as sepsis or dehydration.

People with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses are more at risk because their bodies dons’t work as well as they should. People who are on dialysis for kidney disease are 50 times more likely to contract listeriosis.

And pregnant women are more likely than others to get sick from foodborne pathogens. Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to contract a Listeria monocytogenes infection.

If someone in your family falls into one of these high risk groups, it’s critical that you pay special attention to food safety in the kitchen. The foods that are most likely to harbor pathogens are undercooked or raw animals products, raw or lightly cooked sprouts, unpasteurized milk and juices,and soft cheeses.

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