Posted: August 7th, 2013
Pathogens are microorganisms such as fungi, viruses, bacteria that act as disease causative factors among organisms such as human beings, animals, plants and other microorganisms, typically referred to as hosts. Some pathogens have been established to be accountable for considerable quantity of casualties, particularly outbreaks, and have had a decisive impact on the groups affected by these pathogens. Pathogens, such as Salmonella have affected large groups of persons due to the ingestion of contaminated foods arising from the aforementioned pathogen.
Salmonella refers to a group of bacteria that are rod shaped that cause food borne illnesses such as diarrhea and typhoid in human beings. They are microscopic organisms that are able to move from the waste excretions, specifically feces, of human beings or animals to other humans or animals. They are one of the most widespread causes of food poisoning in the United States. There are over 2300 different variations of bacteria within the Salmonella family. These variations are mostly one-celled organisms that are too minute to be viewed with the use of a microscope. The most common types of Salmonella account for half for all the infections in human beings in the United States. These serotypes include the Salmonella typhimirium and the Salmonella enteritidis. Salmonella are located in the intestinal regions of the people or animals that are affected.
Salmonella are mostly transmitted to human beings by eating and ingesting food contaminated with the feces of animals. According to the IDPH (2009), these contaminated foods are regularly of animal derivation, including sources like eggs, beef, milk or poultry, but this does not limit the bacteria from affecting humans through the ingestion of contaminated fruits and vegetables. Foods that are contaminated usually possess a normal appearance and scent therefore, making the contamination invisible to the eye. Salmonella present in raw beef and poultry can survive if the raw food is cooked to a below safe least temperature. Salmonella can also be cross-contaminated and cause food borne illnesses. For instance, cross contamination usually occurs when the juices of the contaminated foods, for example, raw beef, are exposed to other healthy foods that can be readily eaten such as salads. Contamination of foods can also occur when the person handling the foods either is infected, or touches the foods with unwashed hands during preparation, or engages directly with another person. Salmonella can also be directly transmitted from animals such as dogs, cats, birds, fish and pets, as well. Transmission through these animals occurs because of the presence of bacteria inside the animals’ feces, especially those with diarrhea. People can get these pathogens if they do not wash their hands thoroughly especially after coming into contact with the feces, or after handling the animals, whether they are healthy or unhealthy.
Salmonella has led to massive outbreaks in the U.S., the most common and identifiable one being the United States Salmonellosis Outbreak in 2008. The main causative sources of the disease according to the CDC (2008) were contaminated food products such as peppers from the country of Mexico and raw tomatoes. A great number, possibly hundreds, of people all over the United States became sick after consumption of the contaminated food. A variation of Salmonella, Salmonella enteritidis, caused 1329 cases of Salmonellosis food poisoning in the Columbian District and 43 states throughout the United States, which was the largest Salmonellosis outbreak in America (CDC, 2008). Approximately 21.3 and 56.9 cases per million were accounted for in the states of Texas and New Mexico respectively. The outbreak also led to the hospitalization of 257 people, and the death of a single individual.
Salmonella cause the disease, Salmonellosis in human beings and animals. Although, in some individuals Salmonellosis can be asymptomatic, the disease, among most people, incorporates symptoms such as diarrhea, headaches, abdominal cramps, muscle aches, dehydration, nausea and fever within half a day to 3 days subsequent to the ingestion of any infected food but the time can be extended if few organisms are consumed. Symptomatic and asymptomatic people are able to discard their bacteria in their excretions. Indications usually fade away within a week and most persons are able to convalesce without treatment, although there are rare antibiotics specified for Salmonellosis. However, Salmonella infections are life threatening for infants, pregnant women and convalescents such as old adults and unborn babies as well as people affected with diseases such as cancer and HIV/AIDS (IDPH, 2009).
Salmonella has been causing infections for the last 100 years making it one of the most common pathogen affecting humans and animals. Various preventive measures have been used to avoid another Salmonella outbreak. Some of these measures are personal, such as washing of hands with water and soap after visiting the toilet and before handling foods, washing of foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Cooking food thoroughly and properly at standard and safe temperatures, and the use of different utensils before and after cooking and eating, such as plates and spoons, to avoid cross contamination can also be considered another measure. There are also environmental measures adopted with the main being the establishment of public health regulation agencies. One example of such an agency is the Food Safety and Inspection Service, FSIS (CDC, 2008). The FSIS is responsible for the hygienically safe commercial supply of egg products, meat and poultry throughout the United States. The agency set a rule, Pathogen Reduction; Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Systems, Final Rule (PR/HACCP), that establishes performance standards for organizations in the control of contamination of animal products in respect to Salmonella (CDC, 2008). The FSIS also obliges factory plants to decrease bacteria through the PR/HACCP system. Salmonella is as life threatening as any other disease; however, that does not mean that it cannot be controlled. It is important to learn about the bacteria, its infections, diseases and preventive measures to ensure the protection of all living things around us.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008, August). Investigation of Outbreak of Infections caused by Salmonella Saintpaul. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/saintpaul/jalapeno/index.html/
Illinois Department of Public Health. (2009, January). Salmonella. Retrieved from http://www.idph.state.il.us/public/hb/hbsam.html/
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