Since April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 1,251 people (it changes daily) have been infected with a strain of salmonella bacteria in 43 states. Although raw jalapeno peppers are now in question, they have given the green light to eating raw tomatoes again. Two weeks ago, family medicine doctors at several of the Avera McGreevy Clinics in Sioux Falls reported that gastroenteritis was going around. Nancy Naeve Brown talked to an Avera Infectious Disease Specialist to find out if it was merely a coincidence or something more.
Nancy says, "I was one of those patients who thought I had the stomach flu. The continual trips to the bathroom started in early June. I went to Jamaica on June 13th and had bouts of it there but I chalked it up to being in a foreign country. It persisted on and off for a month. It got so bad at one point i felt like I'd been hit by a truck in the gut and head. So i wanted to know if my "stomach flu" was really a case of salmonella. Had I eaten tomatoes contaminated with bacteria and how can you tell the difference? "
Dr. Aris Assimacopoulos, Avera Infectious Disease Specialist says, "That's a good question. You may or may not ever know. Salmonella can be a mild self-limited illness though in some cases of salmonella you may get mild gastroenteritis diarrhea illness but you never really know if you had salmonella. It typically goes away on it's own."
Dr. Assimacopoulos says viral gastroenteritis is passed from person to person. You get salmonella from eating food contaminated with feces. Unless you get your stool tested, you may never know for sure if you had the stomach flu or food poisoning, but you know your body.
Dr. A says, "It's more severe with salmonella. Most of the symptoms are in the GI tract. You have very severe diarrhea, a lot of cramping. It's all out of proportion of what you'd expect with a typical viral gastroenteritis. If you start having bloody diarrhea go to the doctor. If you can't keep down liquids. If you start feeling faint when you're standing up because you're not getting enough fluids, you get a high fever or if anyone in your family notices by looking at you that you just aren't right, you need to get to a doctor."
So what can you do to avoid getting it? We say it often, wash your hands and wash them often and thoroughly. Do the same to your fresh produce and vegetables and cook your meat thoroughly. And if you keep eating out at the same place and keep getting sick listen to the voice in your head. It's probably right.
The CDC doesn't show any cases of salmonella in South Dakota, but that may be a little misleading since it's all l about reporting. If you don't go to the doctor, your stool isn't tested. If it tested positive for salmonella, the doctor reports that to the CDC. The long and short of it, watch what you eat, where you eat it and how it's prepared and listen to your body. If you suspect it's not just a virus, go to the doctor.