Salmonella is a bacterial infection that is common in humans. There are many strains of bacteria that cause the infection, although it most frequently occurs with the Typhimurium and Enteritidis serotypes. Salmonella was first discovered in the late nineteenth century by an American scientist named Salmon, whom the bacteria were named after.
Salmonella is typically transmitted when the feces of an infected animal or person is consumed by another. Among humans, this most often happens with food that isn't cooked thoroughly and allows the bacteria to survive the cooking process. In some cases, the bacteria is transferred by a food handler that doesn't thoroughly wash their hands after using the bathroom. Almost all meat and eggs from farm-raised animals can come into contact with fecal particles during processing, making it necessary to cook food until it is safe to eat. Reptiles are a favorite host of the bacteria, making it dangerous to not wash one's hands after handling one. After consumption, the bacteria passes through the stomach to the intestinal tract, where it rapidly multiplies and creates the infection.
The symptoms of Salmonella infections are common with a number of other diseases, making it rather difficult to detect. These symptoms most commonly include diarrhea, fevers, and abdominal cramps. Diagnosis is typically conducted by analysis of stool samples to determine if the bacteria is present. Once detected, it is easily treated with antibiotics.
Infections typically last under a week, making treatment unnecessary except in severe cases where the patient becomes dehydrated from diarrhea. Sometimes the infection will spread away from the intestine, creating a more serious condition that requires careful treatment. Since some strains have become resistant to antibiotics, it can take longer than usual to cure the infection. In some rare cases, people infected with Salmonella will develop Reiter's syndrome, which causes pain in the joints, irritated eyes, and pain when urinating, lasting for an unpredictable amount of time.
Only about 40,000 cases of Salmonella infections are reported in the United States on a yearly basis. Children are the most susceptible to infection, since they typically stick more things into their mouths than adults. Fatalities are uncommon, with only six hundred people worldwide dying from Salmonella infections per year.