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More than 206 million eggs have been recalled because of a salmonella outbreak — here's what the illness is and how to avoid it

Business Insider logo Business Insider 5/14/2018 Kevin Loria

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(video courtesy CBS News)

  • More than 206 million eggs are being recalled from supermarkets because they may have been contaminated with salmonella.
  • Salmonella infections sicken 1.2 million people in the US every year, leading to about 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.
  • Infections are most common in young children and most severe among infants, older people, and people with weakened immune systems.
  • Most people get better in four to seven days with rest and rehydration, but some severe cases require antibiotics.

Every year in the US, about 1 million people get salmonella infections from food that has been contaminated by one of the many kinds of salmonella bacteria.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration announced a recall of more than 206 million eggs in supermarkets and grocery chains including Food Lion and Walmart. So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that there have been at least 35 illnesses and 11 hospitalizations related to the outbreak. (You can check whether your eggs have been recalled on the FDA website.)

Eggs and dairy products are one of the most common sources of the foodborne illness, but infections with salmonella — which cause an illness known as salmonellosis — also come from eating poultry, meat, fruits, vegetables, spices, and nuts, among other things. In April, an outbreak linked to the herbal supplement kratom sickened at least 132 people in 38 states.

Some people also get sick by interacting with animals, especially reptiles, amphibians, and birds.

typhoid Salmonella Typhi drug-resistant antibiotic-resistant © Provided by Business Insider typhoid Salmonella Typhi drug-resistant antibiotic-resistant

How people get salmonella and how the infection can be treated

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are roughly 1.2 million cases of salmonella infections each year in the US, with an annual average of 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.

Children, especially those under 5, are at the highest risk, and illnesses caused by these infections are most severe for infants, older people, and anyone with a weakened immune system.

A person can get sick from eating food that has been contaminated by one of 2,300 types of salmonella bacteria. The two most common types found in the US, Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium, account for about half of human infections, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

The bacteria live in the intestinal tract of animals. When animal feces contaminate meat, poultry, or dairy products, the bacteria spread. Cross-contamination can occur when produce or other foods come into contact with the bacteria.

Most people who get sick develop diarrhea, a fever, and abdominal cramps within three days, and the illness can last for about four to seven days. Many recover without treatment, aside from rest and rehydration, though it can take several months for bowel movements to normalize.

In particularly severe cases, diarrhea can get bad enough that warrants hospitalization. If the infection spreads from the intestines into the bloodstream, it can be fatal without antibiotic treatment. A small number of cases can also cause joint pain from reactive arthritis that can last for months or years.

People attend a cooking workshop for Germans and migrants in Berlin, Germany, January 30, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke © Provided by Business Insider People attend a cooking workshop for Germans and migrants in Berlin, Germany, January 30, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

How to prevent infection

Since salmonella infections can be severe, food-safety experts recommend a variety of steps to prevent them.

Animal products should be kept separate in grocery carts and refrigerators and should be cooked to safe temperatures to kill pathogenic bacteria — according to the USDA, steaks, chops, and roasts should reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and ground meat should reach 160 degrees. For poultry, it's 165, and for egg dishes, it's 160.

Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours, or one hour in very hot conditions.

Thoroughly washing your hands and cleaning counters and utensils are also important practices to help prevent foodborne illnesses. Since sponges and cloth towels can often become hotbeds of bacteria, the USDA recommends using paper towels to clean surfaces that have come into contact with animal products.

If you do get sick, your doctor can determine whether your illness was caused by salmonella or another bacteria.

To find out whether any eggs in your refrigerator are being recalled, the FDA has a full list of egg brands affected.

Gallery: With recent food poisoning scares, here are 8 foods an expert won't eat a close up of food: With an  E. coli outbreak tied to romaine lettuce and an  egg recall for fear of salmonella, food poisoning is on shoppers' minds. Food poisoning expert Bill Marler has cut certain foods out of his diet after more than two decades as a foodborne-illness attorney.Here are eight foods he won't eat, from uncooked eggs to bagged lettuce.  It feels as though the world is being bombarded by endless rounds of food poisoning outbreaks. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans  avoid any form of romaine lettuce. Earlier in April,  more than 200 million eggs were recalled for fear that they could be contaminated with salmonella. And, in late March,  a South African listeria outbreak was dubbed the largest of its kind after 189 people died and hundreds more were sickened.  Bill Marler, an attorney with a focus on food poisoning cases, has been watching the outbreaks closely.  With more than two decades working as a food poisoning advocate and attorney, there are some things that Marler has cut out of his diet. Marler has won more than $600 million for clients in foodborne-illness cases - and become convinced that some foods aren't worth the risk. In an  article by Health Insider from BottomLine and  in conversations with Business Insider, Marler has identified certain foods that he avoids - and that others should be wary of as well. Here are the foods that this expert says scare him the most: America is being bombarded by food poisoning scares — here are 8 foods an expert says he refuses to eat


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