Foodborne diseases, commonly referred to as food poisoning, occur when a person consumes food or beverages that have been contaminated. This contamination may occur due to the presence of parasites, viruses, or bacteria. Some of the most common foodborne diseases include salmonella, enterovirus, and giardiasis. Treatment options vary depending on the type of organism causing the illness, although prescription medications and hospitalization are often needed.
Salmonella is among the foodborne diseases that have a bacterial cause. The salmonella bacteria commonly lives in the intestines of mammals, birds, and reptiles and is primarily transmitted through contact with contaminated animal products. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, fever, and diarrhea. In patients with weakened immune systems or other chronic medical conditions, salmonella may lead to a life-threatening blood infection.
Viruses can sometimes lead to foodborne diseases. One example of this is the enterovirus. Abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting are some of the most common symptoms. Depending on the strain of the enterovirus, life-threatening complications may occur, requiring immediate medical attention. This condition is contagious, so proper hygiene, especially hand washing, is extremely important.
Some foodborne diseases are caused by parasites. Giardiasis is one example of this type of illness. Contaminated water is the primary cause of giardiasis, although it may develop from consumption of undercooked meat that has been infected with this parasite. Symptoms typically include abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea.
Treatment for foodborne diseases often depends on the severity of the symptoms. Symptoms that last for 24 hours or less may be able to be treated at home. Some self-care options include rest; drinking plenty of fluids; and eating small amounts of bland foods such as rice, oatmeal, or toast. Water, juice, or sports drinks are good choices to help avoid dehydration, but beverages high in sugar could add to the nausea and should be limited or avoided.
If symptoms become severe or last more than 24 hours, a doctor should be consulted. In many cases, prescription medications can be given to help combat the illness. Some patients may need to be hospitalized for more intensive therapy. When the patient is admitted to the hospital, a small tube, known as an IV, is usually inserted into a vein so that medications and fluids can be delivered directly into the bloodstream. In the most severe cases, supportive care such as oxygen therapy or other life-support devices may be needed until the patient's condition has stabilized.