May 29, 2024

What Are the Symptoms of Common Foodborne Pathogens?

Since 48,000,000 Americans are sickened with food poisoning every year, which hospitalizes 128,000 and kills about 3,000, consumers should know the symptoms of these illnesses so they can get prompt treatment. There are 31 different pathogens that are known to cause foodborne illness, but the three most common are Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), and Listeria monocytogenes. What are the symptoms of common foodborne pathogens?

What Are the Symptoms of Common Foodborne Pathogens?

Salmonella Symptoms

Symptoms of a Salmonella food poisoning illness include a mild fever, a headache, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that may be bloody. Symptoms usually start 12 to 72 hours after ingestion of the pathogen. Most people do recover on their own without medical treatment, which is why food safety experts use what is called a “multiplier” to estimate the real numbers in an outbreak. In Salmonella outbreaks, the multiplier is 29. That means if an outbreak has sickened 30 people who are counted as patients, the actual case count may be as high as 900 sick.

Some of the foods that have caused recent Salmonella outbreaks include ground beef, precut fruit, turkey, and chicken.

Long term consequences of a Salmonella infection can occur even after a patient recovers completely from the illness. Those complications include Reiter’s Syndrome, which can cause reactive arthritis, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, and endocarditis. Salmonella causes 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths every year in the United States.

Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli Symptoms

The serotype of E. coli that causes most illnesses in the U.S. every year is E. coli O157:H7. Outbreaks linked to what officials call the “Big Six“, which are other STEC strains, include E. coli O26, E. coli O45, E. coli O103, E. coli O111, E. coli O121, and E. coli O145 have also occurred.

These pathogens live in the guts of ruminant animals, such as goats and cows, and are shed in their feces. STEC outbreaks have been linked to everything from romaine lettuce and other leafy greens, to ground beef, petting zoos at local and state fairs, raw milk, bison, raw flour, soy nut butter, chicken salad, ready-to-eat salads, and raw sprouts.

Symptoms of a STEC infection include a mild fever, nausea and vomiting, severe and painful abdominal cramps, and diarrhea that is usually bloody. Since these symptoms are so serious and alarming, the multiplier for E. coli outbreaks is 2. Most people do see a doctor when they contract this infection. A deadly complication of this infection is called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a type of kidney failure. The main symptoms for that complication is little urine output.

This pathogen sickens about 265,000 Americans every year. About 5 to 10% of those patients will develop HUS.

Listeria Monocytogenes Symptoms

There are not as many cases of listeriosis as they are E. coli and Salmonella cases every year in this country, but this pathogen is unusually virulent and deadly. The people most likely to contract this infection and become seriously ill include pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with a chronic illness or compromised immune system. About 1,600 listeriosis cases occur every year in the United States, and about 260 of those patients die.

This infection is also tricky to diagnose, since symptoms may not appear for 70 days after a person eats food contaminated with this pathogen. The classic symptoms of listeriosis include a stiff neck, high fever, severe headache, muscle aches, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Things are different for pregnant women, since they may only feel like they have the flu. But listeriosis can cause premature labor, stillbirth, miscarriage, and serious infection in the newborn.

This pathogen can contaminate just about any food. Recent Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks have been linked to hard boiled eggs, deli sliced meats and cheeses, ham, ice cream, and pork.

These outbreaks are often discovered through PulseNet, a nationwide bacterial typing system, because illnesses linked to the same food can occur months or years apart. Researchers find people infected with the same strain of Listeria monocytogenes and then piece the outbreak together.

What Can You Do?

Attorney Fred Pritzker

You can contact food safety attorney Fred Pritzker for help if you are sickened with food poisoning by calling 1-888-377-8900 or 612-338-0202.

Food safety attorney Fred Pritzker, who has represented hundreds of clients in lawsuits after they have eaten contaminated food, said that it is illegal for companies to produce food that is contaminated with enough bacteria to make people sick. But there are things ordinary people can do to prevent these illnesses.

First, now that you know the symptoms of common foodborne pathogens, you can protect yourself and your family. Second, stay current on food recalls and outbreak announcements, and handle food safely, especially raw meats, poultry, fresh produce, and eggs.

And third, there are some foods that people in high risk groups, including young children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, and those with compromised immune systems, should avoid completely. Those foods include raw milk, raw sprouts, soft deli cheeses, undercooked meats, especially ground beef, ground chicken, and ground turkey, unpasteurized pates and meat spreads, raw and undercooked shellfish, refrigerated smoked fish, foods with raw or undercooked eggs, and deli and luncheon meats.



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