In the Netherlands, Salmonella bacteria regularly cause gastroenteritis in humans. The bacteria can be found in many different foods, but mainly in food items that come from animal sources, such as meat, eggs and dairy products.
Infections involving Salmonella bacteria are common in the Netherlands. Most people experience reasonably mild symptoms that disappear on their own. Typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever are diseases that are usually contracted while travelling abroad; they are caused by serotypes of Salmonella that do not occur in the Netherlands.
What symptoms are caused by Salmonella?
The time between eating food contaminated with Salmonella and the first symptoms is usually 6 to 72 hours. Not everyone who is infected with salmonella becomes seriously ill. Symptoms usually include diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms usually go away on their own after 3 to 7 days. Headache, fever, muscle pain and/or joint pain may also occur. Gastrointestinal symptoms may lead to a more severe course of illness in older people and small children (especially infants) because of the risk of dehydration. In a small percentage of cases (<5%), a Salmonella infection can spread to the bloodstream. This is mainly a concern for people who are already weakened, for example due to another health condition. In such cases, the infection may lead to more serious clinical presentation, such as blood poisoning, meningitis and urinary tract infections.
What can you do if you are ill as a result of Salmonella?
The main symptom caused by Salmonella is diarrhoea. People who have diarrhoea need to make sure they are drinking enough fluids and taking in salt and sugar. Drink tea, water, broth and a salt and sugar solution (oral rehydration salts or ORS, available from your local chemist).
Contact your GP if you find blood in your diarrhoea, if you develop a high fever, or if the diarrhoea has not started improving after a week.
How do you get Salmonella?
Many different animals can be carriers of Salmonella. That includes chickens, pigs, cattle and reptiles. Animals that are carrying salmonella do not usually show any symptoms. This can cause Salmonella contamination of many different food products, but also the surrounding area. The highest risk of contamination involves raw animal foods, such as meat from poultry, cattle or pigs, but eggs also present a risk. Most people become infected with the bacteria by eating uncooked or undercooked animal products. However, Salmonella bacteria can also be found on fruit and vegetables. The risk that people will infect each other is minimal.
How do you prevent a Salmonella infection?
Good hygiene in the kitchen is the most important measure to prevent salmonella. Follow the storage recommendations provided with the products, wash your hands regularly in the kitchen and before eating food, and make sure that raw animal products used in your kitchen do not come into contact with raw products that you will eat uncooked (such as salads or some fish). For example, use separate cutting boards and knives for raw meat and raw vegetables. Heat meat, fish, eggs and shellfish thoroughly until they are cooked.
How often does Salmonella infection occur?
An estimated 30,000 people in the Netherlands have acute gastro-enteritis (gastrointestinal infection) caused by salmonella every year. A small percentage of these people go to the GP as a result, and an even smaller percentage of that group end up in hospital.
Typhoid and paratyphoid fever
Typhoid and paratyphoid fever are diseases caused by types of Salmonella found in tropical and subtropical countries. The symptoms of typhoid and paratyphoid fever are often more serious than the symptoms of infections caused by the Salmonella types that are common in the Netherlands. The first symptoms appear about 8 to 14 days after infection. Both types cause high fever, loss of appetite, headache, lethargy and undefined abdominal pain. People with typhoid often develop constipation (painful, difficult and infrequent bowel movements). People with paratyphoid fever often have diarrhoea.
There is a vaccine against typhoid. Typhoid vaccination is sometimes advised before travelling to tropical or subtropical countries. Are you going on a trip? And would you like information about which vaccinations you need? Contact your Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) or a doctor or GP registered with the National Coordination Centre for Travellers Advice (LCR).Contact a travel clinic, your Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) or a doctor or GP registered with the National Coordination Centre for Travellers Advice (LCR).