One of the biggest delights of summer is eating outdoors such as at picnics, street fairs, sidewalk cafes, or even in your own backyard. However, one must also be careful about food poisoning, especially during the summers. Around 48 million people fall sick every year from foodborne illnesses, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and these numbers peak during the summer season. Scientists have classified more than 250 foodborne diseases, mostly infections caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, but also some toxins and chemicals. These are the top five foodborne illnesses, according to the CDC:
- Norovirus is the most common one which causes diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and sometimes headache, fever and body aches. It develops within a couple of days of exposure and usually subsides within three days. Some commonly contaminated foods are fresh fruits, leafy greens, and shellfish grown in contaminated water.
- Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhoea, and abdominal cramps within three days of infection and generally lasts four to seven days.
- Clostridium perfringens is a bacterium usually found on poultry and raw meat. Outbreaks are linked to foods prepared in large quantities and kept warm for a long time before serving. Diarrhoea and abdominal cramps develop within a day of exposure and usually last only a day.
- Campylobacter causes diarrhoea, fever, and abdominal cramps, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may develop within two to five days after exposure and usually subside within a week. It is linked to contaminated food preparation and consumption of unwashed produce, undercooked meat, and unpasteurized dairy products.
- Staphylococcal food poisoning starts very suddenly, within thirty minutes to eight hours of infection, and is generally caused by not washing hands before handling food.
Like most foodborne illnesses, these usually subside on their own. You must stay hydrated as dehydration can cause severe complications. It is advisable to consult your doctor if symptoms are severe or persistent (including bloody diarrhoea, a fever over 100 degrees F, weakness or other signs of dehydration). Most often than not, foodborne illnesses do not require treatment. However, some (including some parasites) do require medical intervention.
Preventing Foodborne Diseases
The most effective way to avoid foodborne illnesses is by washing your hands. You must use soap and running water and scrub thoroughly for 20 seconds. If you do not have access to soap and water, your second-best option is a hand-sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.