Is Salmonellosis a Food Poisoning or a Stomach Bug?|Prevention of Salmonellosis

Worried about salmonellosis? Wondering if it is food poisoning or stomach bug? While food poisoning and stomach bug (flu) are the commonest. Let us understand if salmonellosis or salmonella infection is food poisoning or stomach bug.

Food poisoning is usually caused by a bacteria Salmonella. This organism is popular for its cause typhoid infection, but it has other species that can cause food poisoning too. Salmonellosis is commonly also called salmonella or salmonella infection, due to the name of the bacteria. It is important to know about salmonellosis in detail and also whether it is food poisoning or stomach bug.

Salmonellosis - Food Poisoning or Stomach Bug?

Salmonellosis – Food Poisoning or Stomach Bug?

Salmonella is a bacteria known to cause typhoid and paratyphoid fever. Salmonella that don’t cause typhoid generally result in food poisoning or salmonellosis. Although the complaints of food poisoning and stomach bug may appear similar, there are many differences and main differentiating factor is the causative organism.

If you are wondering what is salmonellosis and whether it is food poisoning or stomach bug, this article can surely help you.

Salmonella can is transferred via human-to-human contact and cause typhoid fevers or salmonellosis, depending on the species. The species that don’t cause typhoid can cause food poisoning. The disease of this organism is resolved without the need of using antibiotics.

Salmonellosis organisms enter via the mouth along with the food. Fairly large amount of salmonella may get ingested with food or water and hence cause food poisoning. Toxins of the organism are not responsible for causing food poisoning. Live organism itself, in abundance, is responsible for the disease to actually occur and progress of salmonellosis.

Normally the acidic environment of the stomach acts as the biggest defense against the bacteria and their toxins but salmonella have developed resistance against this acidic environment. Thus they safely pass into the small intestine to cause inflammation of its walls. It is more common in immunosuppressive and immunocompromised patients but elderly and young people are also at risk. Salmonella bacteria have the ability to survive and replicate in the intestine instead of getting destructed, which results in gastrointestinal disturbances.

In order to understand whether salmonellosis is food poisoning or stomach bug, it is necessary to understand each one of them in relation to salmonellosis.

What is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning occurs due to consumption of spoiled or contaminated food, which results in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. The symptoms of food poisoning may appear as early as an hour to as long as 28 to 30 days depending on the type of causative organism and the location of infection. Food poisoning can be caused by bacteria, virus or a parasite. While food poisoning can be due to various causes, Salmonella bacteria is one of its important causes, in which case, it is salmonellosis.

Food poisoning can be suspected by noticing the prominent symptoms of food poisoning. The symptoms include weakness, fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, headaches and abdominal cramps. The need to see the doctor is immediate if there is hematuria, fever above 102oF, severe dehydration or diarrhea lasting more than 3 days.

Treatment of Food Poisoning

Food poisoning usually resolves in 4 to 5 days but dehydration is to be kept in check. Dehydration is the commonest part of food poisoning, as the body fails to retain enough water and ions. Water and ions are constantly excreted out due to vomiting or diarrhea.

It is therefore very important that the person remains hydrated as the increased amount of expulsion of ion and water can cause ion imbalance and dehydration as well. Substances like coffee and chilies should be avoided as they increase gastric motility and may further trigger diarrhea or vomiting. There may be a need for hospitalization if the vomiting is not controlled and it hampers water and food intake. Intravenous fluids are infused at the hospital so that the body can maintain a proper balance of ions and water. If there are no complications, usually the symptoms tend to resolve completely and the use of antibiotics is best decided by the physician, based on the cause.

Stomach Bug

Stomach bug or stomach flu is a common term used for viral gastroenteritis. It usually causes inflammation of stomach or intestines. It is frequently referred to as stomach flu. The causative agents in this disease are only viruses, with which differentiates it from salmonellosis. Stomach bug is caused by viruses like Norovirus, Rotavirus and Adenovirus. The disease is quite active and pronounced in winters. The transmission can occur from direct contact with the infected person or by coming in contact with the vomitus or stool of the infected person.

Being flu and of viral origin, stomach bug presents with symptoms like fever, diarrhea, stomach cramps, joint and muscle aches, nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms of stomach bug are similar to that of food poisoning but they take a little longer to appear and fairly longer (up to 10 days) to resolve. The symptoms don’t usually get as aggravated as that in the case of food poisoning. For instance, in viral gastroenteritis bloody stools, severe abdominal cramping, unconsciousness are not as common but these do appear in cases of food poisoning. Similar to salmonellosis and food poisoning, this infection too can cause severe dehydration and ion imbalance. Dizziness may occur in an individual with constant diarrhea or vomiting due to stomach bug.

Treatment of Stomach Bug

Dehydration is the main concern even in case of stomach bug and for severe dehydration hospitalization must be considered. It is necessary to increase the water intake by taking fluid with electrolytes in them. Once the vomiting has completely stopped and you have the feeling that your stomach is capable of tolerating food then and only then should you start taking food but that too in small quantities. Bland items like cereal, breads, fresh fruits, are preferred. Don’t take foods that are hard to digest and take longer time, like milk, cream, and cheese. Coffee and chilies should be avoided as they are stimulants.

While salmonellosis or food poisoning may need antibiotics, stomach bug does not require any antibiotics. Don’t take antibiotics without consulting your doctor as it is not a bacterial infection. It is a stomach bug which is caused by a virus and therefore antibiotics won’t treat the disease.

Secondly, one must always wash their hands before eating or preparing food. Staying away from crowd, when suffering from either of these is ethical to prevent the spread of infection. Best thing to do is to stay at home for 2 to 3 days for enough rest and isolation. Bottom line, wash your hands thoroughly as viruses stay up to 2 weeks in stool and avoid contact with other people.

How is Food Poisoning Different From Stomach Bug?

Symptoms of foods poisoning and stomach bug are somewhat similar but food poisoning is more common than stomach bug. Stomach bug is caused by viruses only but food poisoning can be due to bacteria, viruses or parasites and salmonellosis is one of them. Therefore antibiotics only work in cases of food poisoning as they act against bacteria and have no effect on viruses. Stomach bug is not caused by bacteria so antibiotics have no effect in such cases.

Food poisoning symptoms occur early and take less time to regress but the symptoms of stomach bug take longer to occur and even longer to resolve. The symptoms of food poisoning are more severe than that of stomach bug.

Both can be handled and treated at home if the ion balance and dehydration are kept under control. No medication is required if the disease starts to regress on its own.
Now, coming back to the question, whether salmonellosis is food poisoning or stomach bug. Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause food poisoning. However, as stomach bug is caused due to viral infection, salmonella cannot be a cause for it. Hence, salmonellosis or salmonella infection is food poisoning and not stomach bug.

Prevention of Salmonellosis

Here are some ways in which food poisoning can be prevented.

  • Avoid Meat – To prevent infections from food poisoning, it is best to avoid coming raw fish, meat and poultry.
  • Washing and Cooking Food – Food poisoning is mostly caused by contaminated food. Therefore food should be handled with care and should be prepared with proper heating as the heat kills all the pathogens. All foods should be washed properly and cooked properly by heating so that all disease causing organisms are destroyed. Fruits and vegetable must be washed with clean running tap water. These should not be washed merely by soaking in because this causes the organism to remain on surface of the vegetable and thus can cause disease. Raw foods like sushi are quite common sources of food poisoning as pathogens commonly breed on them.
  • Maintain Personal Hygiene – It is necessary to maintain personal hygiene. People should wash their hands properly before eating or handling food products.
  • Get Pure Water – Mixing of sewage water with clean water can also cause contamination of the fruits and vegetables that we eat. Thus water should be checked and vegetables and fruits should be washed thoroughly in the house before consumption. Water purification should be done to prevent contaminated water from causing the disease.

Thus while we conclude that salmonellosis is food poisoning and not stomach bug, it is necessary to take steps to prevent it and get timely treatment, with proper medical advice.

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