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As the name implies, an infection typically means active, growing bacteria and in this type of food poisoning the illness is caused by the presence of actively dividing bacteria in a contaminated food product. The most commonly seen causative organisms for food infection include bacteria of the genus Salmonella, Shigella, and Campylobacter. The bacteria are consumed in a contaminated food product and symptoms generally begin once the bacteria have multiplied in the intestines approximately 18 to 24 hours after ingestion. The acute illness can last anywhere from 1 to 7 days with some people experiencing related symptoms for as long as months afterward. People with impaired immune systems and infants can be particularly hard hit by these illnesses.
What is Salmonella?
Vomiting and Diarrhea from Salmonella Poisoning
Food Safety and Your Health
In this type of food poisoning [link widoczny dla zalogowanych], the bacterial contaminant might very well have been destroyed during processing or cooking of the offending food product. In this case it is not the presence of a growing bacterial population that leads to the illness, but rather to the secretion or release of specific bacterial toxins into the food product. The most common offenders in this type of food poisoning are either Staphylococcus bacteria or specific strains of the bacterium E. coli. The production of toxin molecules by these organisms leads to the illnesses that are seen. As an example, even though food preparation and cooking might have eliminated actively growing Staphlyococcus [link widoczny dla zalogowanych], the toxin that it produced still causes illness. For food intoxication of this type the symptoms usually occur more quickly than for food infections and they typically get better more quickly.
Preventing Food Poisoning
For more information, visit the US Centers for Disease Control page on food-borne disease.
Food-borne illnesses can be very severe; some can even be fatal. Several years ago, multiple deaths occurred in North America after consuming meat contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. Good food hygiene can go a very long way in protecting yourself from food-borne illnesses. Working in your kitchen, never prepare or handle raw meats while handling other foods. Don’t use the same kitchen tools that you just used on uncooked meats on other foods. Thoroughly clean all work surfaces and utensils and wash your hands after handling raw meat. Cook your foods thoroughly; eating undercooked foods of certain types can increase the risk of food-borne illness.
There are many different types of bacteria that can be the offending organism in cases of food poisoning. The recent recall in North America of certain types of tomatoes and peppers has raised awareness about Salmonella bacteria as a cause of food-borne illness, but Salmonella is just one of several bacteria that are linked to food poisoning. These bacterial contaminations do not cause illness in the same way so strategies to combat them are different. However, for most of these illnesses the symptoms are the same, including abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea sometimes bloody [link widoczny dla zalogowanych], and a range of other symptoms from moderate to severe.
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