Salmonella Can Look A Lot Like The Flu, So Watch Out For These Red Flags

by Caroline Burke

As if there wasn't already enough to worry about in 2018, the recent, massive egg recall probably has you stressing over whether or not you're showing signs of salmonella, or you might be wondering what salmonella even is. With so many health afflictions to keep track of in today's world, it's totally understandable if salmonella isn't on your immediate radar, which is probably the singular silver lining to an outbreak like this one: It forces you to gain a better understanding because of the slightly-more-immediate threat it could pose to your health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), salmonella is a bacteria that can make people sick, and in some cases, the effects can be fatal. The most recent salmonella outbreak, which made headlines nearly everywhere this past week, has resulted in the largest egg recall in almost a decade, according to The New Food Economy, with a North Carolina farm recalling over 206 million eggs from nine different states and a variety of brands. So far, these eggs have reportedly been linked to 23 cases of salmonella, per The New Food Economy, with six people being hospitalized and, as of the outlet's reporting on April 17, zero deaths.

I know that all sounds kind of scary, but the truth is, getting sick from salmonella is pretty common. The CDC estimates that 1.2 million salmonella-related illnesses happen every year, with only about 450 deaths caused by the bacteria in the U.S. However, figuring out whether you actually have salmonella might not be that easy.

The symptoms of salmonella are very similar to that of a common flu or stomach bug.

In fact, the three main symptoms of salmonella are the same symptoms you might notice for a normal case of food poisoning, or even a stomach virus: Anywhere between 12 and 72 hours after the bacteria reaches your system, you might experience diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps.

In most cases, the sickness will end there, without your ever having realized that it was, indeed, salmonella, rather than something else. In fact, Mayo Clinic reports that a salmonella infection can cause no symptoms at all in some people.

The only way you can really tell the difference between salmonella and other, similar health issues, is if the symptoms don't go away after about three days or so. At that point, it's definitely in your best interest to see your doctor ASAP, who can then test you for salmonella and other harmful bacteria.

In some especially bad cases, salmonella can spread to your bloodstream, at which point, you might need to stay in the hospital, and you'll almost definitely need antibiotics, according to the CDC.

If you do start to develop signs of salmonella, the FDA suggests you drink a lot of water (since diarrhea and vomiting will dehydrate you), and see how you feel after a few days, as most people start to feel better within four to seven days.

But if it still feels like your body is totally off after about a week, then you should definitely go talk to a doctor about what's going on. Of course, this isn't a suggestion exclusively limited to your concerns about salmonella: In general, if you have diarrhea or are vomiting for a week straight, then you should absolutely go get your symptoms checked out by a professional.

One way you might have an idea of whether your illness is salmonella-related or not, is if you try to think about what you've recently been eating. Since salmonella is commonly found in raw meat, poultry, seafood, and raw eggs, Mayo Clinic reports, this might give you a hint, depending on what your diet looks like. But, again, food isn't the only way to contract salmonella (you can also getting it though direct or indirect contact with feces — yuck — among other things), so keeping track of the foods you've eaten recently wouldn't necessarily lead to any sort of guaranteed diagnosis.

Ultimately, it's rare for a salmonella infection to fatally affect your health, so it's nothing you need to lose sleep or revamp your diet over. Still, it's always good to take precautionary measures, like washing your hands regularly, making sure your food is cooked all the way through, and washing cooking utensils as frequently as possible.