Bacterial food poisoning
Foodborne illness or food poisoning is caused by consuming food contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, toxins, viruses, prions or parasites. Such contamination usually arises from improper handling, preparation or storage of food. Foodborne illness can also be caused by adding pesticides or medicines to food, or by accidentally consuming naturally poisonous substances like poisonous mushrooms or reef fish. Contact between food and pests, especially flies, rodents and cockroaches, is a further cause of contamination of food. more...
Some common diseases are occasionally foodborne mainly through the water vector, even though they are usually transmitted by other routes. These include infections caused by Shigella, Hepatitis A, and the parasites Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum.
The World Health Organization defines it as diseases, usually either infectious or toxic in nature, caused by agents that enter the body through the ingestion of food. Every person is at risk of foodborne illness.
Good hygiene practices before, during, and after food preparation can reduce the chances of contracting an illness.
Symptoms and mortality
Symptoms typically begin several hours after ingestion and depending on the agent involved, can include one or more of the following: nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headache or tiredness. In most cases the body is able to permanently recover after a short period of acute discomfort and illness. However, foodborne illness can result in permanent health problems or even death, especially in babies, pregnant women (and their fetuses), elderly people, sick people and others with weak immune systems. Similarly, people with liver disease are especially susceptible to infections from Vibrio vulnificus, which can be found in oysters.
The delay between consumption of a contaminated food and appearance of the first symptoms of illness is called the incubation period. This ranges from hours to days (and rarely months or even years), depending on the agent, and on how much was consumed. If symptoms occur within 1-6 hours after eating the food, it suggests that it is caused by a bacterial toxin rather than live bacteria.
During the incubation period, microbes pass through the stomach into the intestine, attach to the cells lining the intestinal walls, and begin to multiply there. Some types of microbes stay in the intestine, some produce a toxin that is absorbed into the bloodstream, and some can directly invade the deeper body tissues. The symptoms produced depend on the type of microbe.
The infectious dose is the amount of agent that must be consumed to give rise to symptoms of foodborne illness. The infective dose varies according to the agent and consumer's age and health. In the case of Salmonella, as few as 15-20 cells may suffice .
An early theory on the causes of food poisoning involved ptomaines, alkaloids found in decaying animal and vegetable matter. While some poisonous alkaloids are the cause of poisoning, the discovery of bacteria left the ptomaine theory obsolete.
Bacterial infection is the most common cause of food poisoning. In the United Kingdom during 2000 the individual bacteria involved were as follows: Campylobacter jejuni 77.3%, Salmonella 20.9%, Escherichia coli O157:H7 1.4%, and all others less than 0.1% .
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