Every year, millions of Americans are affected by food poisoning. Of these cases, 39 million are diagnosed by a doctor, between 100,000 and 300,000 people are hospitalized for food poisoning and three to five thousand people die. Meat and poultry are the most common culprits, followed by dairy products and eggs, then seafood. Food storage and preparation are key factors in reducing your risk of food poisoning. We should also be extra careful in leaving foods out in warm weather as they can gather dangerous bacteria more quickly.
If you or a loved one was the victim of a serious food poisoning case, you may want to seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer.
What Causes Food Poisoning?
Viruses are the most frequent cause of food poisoning in the U.S., followed by bacteria. The most common pathogens that cause food poisoning are Norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus aureus. The pathogens that cause the most hospitalizations and deaths are Salmonella, Norovirus, Campylobacter, Toxoplasma gondii, and Escherichia coli (E. coli).
Toxins are also a cause of food poisoning; some are produced by bacteria on or in food and others are produced by plants and animals/fish or other organisms ingested by humans. Some plants and animals/fish can be poisonous under certain conditions but are rarely ingested by humans.
Parasites including Giardia, Ameoba, Trichinella, and Taenia Solium are typically ingested with contaminated food or water.
Certain chemicals fall into the toxin category such as mercury found in tuna fish. Other examples of chemicals that could be toxic to humans if ingested are pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and lead.
Common Food Poisoning Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of food poisoning are fever, abdominal pain/cramps, nausea, bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea. In very bad cases, food poisoning can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, or liver and kidney problems.
When a group of people endures common symptoms after eating or drinking similar foods, food poisoning could be the culprit.
When should I Contact a Doctor?
Most cases of food poisoning involve mild to moderate symptoms that resolve themselves within 24-48 hours without any medical treatment necessary. If, however, you are experiencing any of the following symptoms you should seek advice from a medical professional:
- Signs of dehydration which include decreased or no urination, dry mouth, increased thirst, dizziness, and weakness
- Blood in the stool
- Fever, vomiting or diarrhea lasting longer than 72 hours
If you are not sure if your symptoms are due to food poisoning or some other illness, and the symptoms last longer than 72 hours, it is best to seek the advice of a medical professional. In the mean time, stay hydrated with an electrolyte drink and watch for signs of fever or other more serious symptoms.
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