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HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

A foodborne disease is a disease you get from eating contaminated foods or drinking contaminated water or other beverages otherwise known as food poisoning. There are many things that can cause foodborne illnesses, including bacteria, viruses, protozoa and chemical illnesses. There are at least 250 foodborne illnesses known. Even fungi, such as poisonous mushrooms, can cause foodborne illnesses. As bacteria and other microbes can enter the body in different ways, there is sometimes no way of knowing whether a microbe is the cause of a foodborne illness or not. For example, E. coli O157:H7 can be passed between children in a daycare center as well as through food or water.

The most common illnesses that cause food poisoning which are foodborne include bacteria such as E. coli, Campylobacter and Salmonella. Viruses related to the Norwalk virus can be foodborne as can Norovirus. The bacteria, such as Campylobacter, often yield symptoms of diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever. It is the most common bacterial foodborne illness in the world. Salmonella has similar symptoms. Norwalk virus and related virus tend not to have bloody diarrhea but have watery diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Other organisms which can be foodborne but are usually transferred through other routes include Hepatitis A, Shigella and Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium (a parasite). Some foodborne illnesses are dangerous because of the toxins found in the organism. This is true with Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism through toxin exposure.

Years ago, tuberculosis, cholera and typhoid fever were extremely common foodborne illnesses. Now that there are improvements in the safety of food, these organisms often only affect those in developing countries. In their place, new foodborne illnesses have taken hold, including Vibrio parahemolyticus, found in oyster beds in Texas. This has led to illness in those who like raw oysters.

Food poisoning is diagnosed through examination of the stool and culturing of the stool for the presence of pathogenic bacteria. Parasites can be seen by taking a sample of the stool and examining it under the microscope. Viruses can be cultured from the blood or stool but this is not often done as it is an expensive test for a self limited illness.

Foodborne illnesses can be treated with supportive measures, including drinking clear liquids, taking Tylenol or ibuprofen for pain and taking antacids for stomach upset and stomach acid. Pedialyte or Oralyte can be used to replace electrolytes as the diarrhea gradually resolves. Pepto-Bismol can be used to shorten the duration of the diarrhoea without stopping it altogether. Some anti diarrheals keep bacteria and toxins within the body and actually prolong the illness. This is especially true of bloody diarrhoea.

Seek medical advice if you have bloody stools, fever greater than 101.5, prolonged vomiting, evidence of dehydration, decreased urination, or diarrhoea that lasts longer than three days. The doctor will not likely give you an antibiotic. This is because, even in bacterial illnesses, the condition is self limited and the antibiotic will not shorten the duration of the illness. Without antibiotics, the symptoms rarely last longer than three days. During your illness, you need to practice absolute hand washing and you should not prepare foods while you are sick, even if you are careful about your hand washing. Antibiotic resistance can occur if you take antibiotics, which can only worsen the disease for you or for others who get it from you.

Foodborne illnesses are common and are underreported to the CDC. The CDC believes that about out of every six individuals in the US or about 48 million people get foodborne illnesses. About 128,000 of these individuals are hospitalized and three thousand die from a foodborne illness. Most people have mild illnesses and those that die are usually in the very old or the very young. Those with an immune system disorder also tend to have severe illnesses or death from foodborne illnesses.

Outbreaks of foodborne illnesses occur for different reasons. They can occur when someone who works at a restaurant or who cooks for the family is sick and passes the foodborne illness to another. Some foods leave the factory where they are prepared and become infected with bacteria due to poor handling or poor manufacturing processes. If food is cooked improperly, there can be an outbreak of a foodborne illness.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Food Poisoning solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Food Poisoning solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here