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What Is Salmonella And How Do You Get It From Eggs?

Updated on September 1, 2010

Salmonella is a bacterium that lives in the intestinal tract of animals and/or people and can be transmitted to other animals and people by contaminated feces. There are about 2300 different types of salmonella but only about a dozen different types cause illness in people.

Salmonella is the most common form of food-borne illness. Symptoms begin anywhere from 8-72 hours after eating a contaminated product, usually raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

Salmonella can be passed by cross-contamination. For example, fruits and vegetables can become contaminated if it comes into contact with uncooked egg, meat, seafood, or poultry. It is always important to wash your hands, wipe down countertops, and to utilize a different cutting board and knife after handling uncooked eggs, meat, seafood, and poultry, because once an item (even your hands) becomes contaminated with salmonella, it can contaminate anything simply by contact, including a sponge. (I often throw my sponge in the dishwasher, and always use paper towels to wipe down counter tops).

Healthy appearing chickens can be infected with the bacteria. Because chickens sit on their eggs, the bacteria get on the outer layer of the shell, and the bacteria are able to penetrate the egg and multiply. Salmonella is also able to attack a hen’s ovaries, contaminating an egg even before developing a shell. It can also be transmitted through egg handling and gathering, by the person handling the eggs and/or cross-contamination (egg to egg).

The current outbreak of salmonella has resulted in millions of eggs being recalled. Though the bacteria can be killed if the egg is thoroughly cooked, it is recommended that people with the contaminated eggs either throw them away or return them to the store where the eggs were purchased. Also, remember to wash your hands after touching them!

The lot numbers of the contaminated eggs involved with the egg recall begin with “P” and are: 1026; 1413; 1720; 1942; 1946.


One egg wigh samonella can contaminate all eggs

photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks-Flickr
photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks-Flickr

Symptoms of salmonella food poisoning are:

--nausea and/or vomiting

--fever and/or chills

--abdominal pain and/or diarrhea

--headache and/or muscle aches

Salmonella can require hospitalization and can also be life threatening, especially for young children and infants, pregnant women, and people with chronic illnesses like cancer and diabetes. It can cause severe dehydration and also get into the bloodstream. Once salmonella is in the blood, it attacks and infects tissues, including the lining of the heart, bones, and membranes of the spinal cord and brain, causing meningitis.

In addition to evaluating symptoms, salmonella is diagnosed by stool and/or blood samples.

Treatment is an anti-diarrheal and/or an antibiotic. Most of the time, symptoms resolve within four to seven days, but as indicated above, there are people in high risk categories that might have severe complications.

As for lasting effects of salmonella, it can take several months for someone to regain normal bowel habits after being infected. In some cases, it can lead to Reiter’s syndrome and chronic arthritis.


The producer of the eggs, Decoster, is not a stranger to health and safety violations. From cruel treatment of animals to sexual harrassment, DeCoster has a long-line of violations including: workers being forced to handle dead chickens and manure with their bare hands; selling eggs despite a mandatory salmonella quarantine; hiring undocumented workers.

Read more about the company and the violations at the Washington Post

nasty, little salmonella bacteria!
nasty, little salmonella bacteria!


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    • Deni Edwards profile image

      Deni Edwards 6 years ago from california

      Thanks for stopping by, acaetnna!

    • acaetnna profile image

      acaetnna 6 years ago from Guildford

      Glad I read this to remind me the dangers of salmonella and eggs. Thanks Deni.

    • Deni Edwards profile image

      Deni Edwards 7 years ago from california

      Hi, Wendy. Thanks for visiting and your comment! Didn't mean to scare you though...

    • Wendy Krick profile image

      Wendy Krick 7 years ago from Maryland

      That is really scary information. I like my eggs runny but I've been cooking them hard all week just in case.

    • Deni Edwards profile image

      Deni Edwards 7 years ago from california

      Hi, Martie--yes, they are nasty, little buggers!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      It seems to me I am underestimating this bacterium! I should be more careful. Thanks for the info and links.

    • Deni Edwards profile image

      Deni Edwards 7 years ago from california

      Well, I am so glad I wrote it, because I almost didn't, thinking it was too late to provide information! Now I have added a link to the FDA website. Thank you for your comment, bayoulady.

    • bayoulady profile image

      bayoulady 7 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      A well written and useful hub. I didn't know about the egg recall. thanks!