Food, Photography and Lifestyle Blog

Food Poisoning, probably not caused by your last meal!


Being in Hong Kong, the city of panic, Doctors tell their clients often that they suffer from food poisoning, and whilst that may be the case (how can you tell just from listening to a set of symptoms) it is most likely not caused by your last meal which is so often misunderstood. So here for those who are unsure a list of causes and incubation periods for a disease to develop. Think of this next time you tell your Chef he has poisoned you.

If you suffer with food poisoning it could have come from something you ate several hours ago or even many days ago SO not necessarily your last meal.

Which Bacteria are Responsible for Food-borne Illness?

Some bacteria cause more serious illness than others, but only a few are responsible for the majority of cases. Below is information regarding nine prominent bacteria.

Campylobacter jejuni

Found: intestinal tracts of animals and birds, raw milk, untreated water, and sewage sludge.

Transmission: contaminated water, raw milk, and raw or under-cooked meat, poultry, or shellfish.

Symptoms: fever, headache, and muscle pain followed by diarrhea (sometimes bloody), abdominal pain and nausea that appear 2 to 5 days after eating; may last 7 to 10 days.

Clostridium botulinum

Found: widely distributed in nature: in soil and water, on plants, and in intestinal tracts of animals and fish. Grows only in little or no oxygen.

Transmission: bacteria produce a toxin that causes illness. Improperly canned foods, garlic in oil, and vacuum-packaged and tightly wrapped food.

Symptoms: toxin affects the nervous system. Symptoms usually appear within 18 to 36 hours, but can sometimes appear within as few as 4 hours or as many as 8 days after eating; double vision, droopy eyelids, trouble speaking and swallowing, and difficulty breathing. Fatal in 3 to 10 days if not treated.

Clostridium perfringens

Found: soil, dust, sewage, and intestinal tracts of animals and humans. Grows only in little or no oxygen.

Transmission: called “the cafeteria germ” because many outbreaks result from food left for long periods in steam tables or at room temperature. Bacteria destroyed by cooking, but some toxin-producing spores may survive.

Symptoms: diarrhea and gas pains may appear 8 to 24 hours after eating; usually last about 1 day, but less severe symptoms may persist for 1 to 2 weeks.

Escherichia coli O157:H7

Found: intestinal tracts of some mammals, raw milk, unchlorinated water; one of several strains of E. coli that can cause human illness.

Transmission: contaminated water, raw milk, raw or rare ground beef, unpasteurized apple juice or cider, uncooked fruits and vegetables; person-to-person.

Symptoms: diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and malaise; can begin 2 to 5 days after food is eaten, lasting about 8 days. Some, especially the very young, have developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) that causes acute kidney failure. A similar illness, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), may occur in older adults.

Salmonella (over 1600 types)

Found: intestinal tract and feces of animals; Salmonella enteritidis in raw eggs.

Transmission: raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, and meat; raw milk and dairy products; seafood.

Symptoms: stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, chills, fever, and headache usually appear 6 to 48 hours after eating; may last 1 to 2 days.

Streptococcus A

Found: noses, throats, pus, sputum, blood, and stools of humans.

Transmission: people-to-food from poor hygiene, ill food handlers, or improper food handling; outbreaks from raw milk, ice cream, eggs, lobster, salads, custard, and pudding allowed to stand at room temperature for several hours between preparation and eating.

Symptoms: sore throat, painful swallowing, tonsillitis, high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, malaise; occurs 1 to 3 days after eating, lasting a few days to about a week.

Listeria monocytogenes

Found: intestinal tracts of humans and animals, milk, soil, leaf vegetables, and processed foods; can grow slowly at refrigerator temperatures.

Transmission: soft cheese, raw milk, improperly processed ice cream, raw leafy vegetables, meat, and poultry. Illness caused by bacteria that do not produce toxin.

Symptoms: fever, chills, headache, backache, sometimes abdominal pain and diarrhea; 12 hours to 3 weeks after ingestion; may later develop more serious illness (meningitis or spontaneous abortion in pregnant women); sometimes just fatigue.

Shigella (over 30 types)

Found: human intestinal tract; rarely found in other animals.

Transmission: person-to-person by fecal-oral route; fecal contamination of food and water. Most outbreaks result from food, especially salads, prepared and handled by workers using poor personal hygiene.

Symptoms: disease referred to as “shigellosis” or bacillary dysentery. Diarrhea containing blood and mucus, fever, abdominal cramps, chills, vomiting; 12 to 50 hours from ingestion of bacteria; can last a few days to 2 weeks. Sometimes, no symptoms seen.

Staphylococcus aureus

Found: on humans (skin, infected cuts, pimples, noses, and throats).

Transmission: people-to-food through improper handling. Multiply rapidly at room temperature to produce a toxin that causes illness.

Symptoms: severe nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea occur 1 to 6 hours after eating; recovery within 2 to 3 days—longer if severe dehydration occurs.

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