We're hearing a lot in the news about the egg recalls and the outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE). Fortunately, we have pediatricians Tsoline Kojaogalian, MD and Zia Ghavami, MD, infectious disease specialist Mihran Seferian, MD, and nutritionist Knarig Khatchadurian Meyer, PhD to help us sort it all out.
Who can get a Salmonella infection from eggs?
Anyone can get SE, but for most people, the symptoms are not serious. Infants, the elderly, and people who have weakened immune systems may get very severe diarrhea and require hospitalization.
What are the symptoms of Salmonella infection?
An infected person usually has fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which occur about 12 to 72 hours after eating a contaminated egg.
How is SE treated? Most cases get better without any treatment other than drinking fluids to replace those lost to diarrhea. More severe diarrhea will require fluid and electrolyte replacement. Antibiotics are not used except for very severe cases or for high-risk patients. In fact, antibiotics can actually prolong salmonella duration.
What should we do if our baby, an elderly person, or another high-risk patient shows signs of SE?
Seek immediate medical attention. Be prepared to share with the health care provider when the symptoms began, and whether eggs have been consumed in the past several days.
Should I stop eating eggs?
No, you don't have to stop using eggs. Check to make sure the eggs in your refrigerator are not on the tainted list (see list at www.cnn.com). If your eggs are safe, you can feel confident to eat a well cooked, hard boiled egg, or pasteurized egg if it is so labeled. This rule applies to white, brown as well as organic eggs.
What can I do to avoid salmonella illness?
- Keep eggs refregerated at 45 degrees F at all times.
- Discard damaged or dirty eggs.
- Have your water tested to make sure it is not tainted with salmonella.
- Wash fruits thoroughly.
- Cook all vegetables, avoid raw salads and unproperly cooked meats.
- Try to eat most meals at home, and make your own sandwich for lunch, otherwise you don't know what you are eating!!
- Avoid eating desserts, pies, pastries, cookies, cakes and bottled salad dressings ,since most of them contain eggs.
- Enforce strict hand washing for yourself and anyone who handles food. This is particularly important for cooks and restaurant employees.
You can get more good advice from the Centers for Disease Control