Common Food-Borne Pathogens

Norwalk-like viruses, or Calicivirus
What is it? There are many Norwalk-like viruses, including the Norovirus, known as the flu. According to the CDC, over half of all foodborn  illnesses in the US are caused by the Norovirus.

What are the symptoms? Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chills, clammy skin, excessive sweating, fever, joint stiffness, incontinence, muscle pain, loss of appetite, and in rate cases, vomiting of blood, and weight loss.

How is it spread? These viruses are spread through contaminated food and water, mainly due to human and animal feces. There isn’t a vaccine or medication to cure the illness, but it usually passes in one to two days.

Salmonella enterica
What is it? Salmonella is an umbrella term for over 2,300 different strains; however, the three most common strains are S. typhi, S. typhimurium, and S. Enteritidis. S. typhi is responsible for typhoid fever. S. enteriditis is the most common Salmonella strain in the US.

What are the symptoms? Symptoms appear one to three days after consuming contaminated food and can last up to seven days. Symptoms include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Salmonella is rarely fatal in healthy individuals, but can be for those who are immunocompromised.

How is it spread? Salmonella is spread through contaminated food and water. Raw and undercooked meat is a common culprit. Even eggs may contain Salmonella; a hen who may be infected can pass the bacterium through the porous surface of her eggs.

Escherichia coli or E. coli
What is it? There are many E. coli strains. Only a few (including O157:H7) cause diarrhea and put the victim at risk for kidney failure. This kidney failure is called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

What are the symptoms? Symptoms include: cramps; diarrhea which may or may not be bloody; and in some individuals, nausea and vomiting. Medical attention should be sought out if bloody diarrhea occurs. Do not take medication to stop the diarrhea; this is the body’s way of removing E. coli. Healthy adults recover in about a week.

How is it spread? E. coli can be obtained from eating undercooked ground beef, drinking contaminated water, or drinking unpasteurized milk. Unwashed vegetables may be contaminated from the soil they’re grown in; the manure may contain E. coli.

What is it? Campylobacter is a bacteria commonly found on poultry.

What are the symptoms? Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. The illness is known as Campylobacteriosis, which manifests two to five days after consuming contaminated food.

How is it spread? Campylobacter is found in the intestines of poultry, especially chickens. Sometimes in slaughter, the intestines come in contact with the raw meat, therefore spreading campylobacter. The CDC reported that in 2005, “campylobacter was found in 47 percent of raw chicken breasts tested through the FDA-NARMS Retail Food program.”