Better know a germ: SALMONELLA

Our state, and our county in particular, is in the middle of a salmonella outbreak. Government agencies at every jurisdictional level are working hard to stop it. We sat down with Berhanu Alemayehu from our food safety program to learn more about what people can do to keep themselves safe.

What is salmonella? How do you spot it?
Salmonella is a bacteria that is found on raw meat and poultry, raw eggs, birds, raw fruits and veggies, and even pet lizards. You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it.

Why is it bad?
Salmonella causes food poisoning. Within 12-72 hours of consuming food contaminated with salmonella, a person may experience vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and fever. These symptoms can lead to hospitalization if not treated properly.

How do you get it?
By eating raw or undercooked meats (beef, pork and poultry), by eating raw eggs, and by eating raw fruits and vegetables that were processed using same utensils used to process raw meats and poultry. Salmonella is an equal opportunity offender – you can get it in a restaurant, at home, or at a catered event. Pregnant women, babies, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible.

How can I make sure I don’t get sick?

  • You can take many steps to stay healthy, even during an outbreak.
  • Don’t eat raw meats or eggs – at restaurants or at home.
  • Wash your hands, especially after handling raw meat or eggs.
  • Cook your food thoroughly. Beef and pork should be cooked to 145⁰F, ground beef to 155⁰F , and poultry should be cooked to 165⁰F.
  • Clean all kitchen spaces and utensils used to prepare raw meats and eggs before using them to prepare other food items.
  • Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.

What if I get sick?
If you get sick, contact your healthcare provider. If you handle food or work in healthcare, don’t go to work. Wash your hands thoroughly to avoid spreading germs.

Berhanu, what is your role in the outbreak?
As part of the restaurant inspection team, I will make sure that all restaurants are following standard food safety practices to prevent the spread of this disease. Our department also works hard to educate the public and restaurant workers about salmonella (if you’re reading this blog, it worked!). For instance, I was recently featured on Ethio Youth Media. Have you ever noticed those warnings about raw eggs and undercooked meats on restaurant menus? That is just one step the health department takes to make sure people are able to make informed decisions about what they eat.

More questions? Visit kingcounty.gov/health.