Hot weather and flooding? Salmonella could be in the forecast

When you think of salmonella risks, food preparation is probably the first thing that comes to mind. But a recent study shows that salmonella is also associated with heat and flooding — and that it could become worse with climate change.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, found that salmonella infections in people rise on hotter and wetter days in coastal Maryland. People living on the coast have more contact with water and are at a greater risk for floods, which can contain harmful bacteria.

The researchers aren’t sure why there is more salmonella in the coastal area. One factor for the increased infections in Maryland may be the state’s link to the poultry industry — the state produces 300 million broiler chickens every year on its Eastern shore. Waste from poultry operations may contaminate nearby water supplies, the researchers said, including wells people depend on for drinking water. Other studies have suggested that warmer days could be leading to changes in eating habits, such as more people eating improperly cooked food from the grill.

Whatever the cause, salmonella infections are something you don’t want. Salmonella can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach cramps. Usually, symptoms last between four and seven days. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which can send you to the hospital.

Luckily, consumers can take steps in their food preparation to help prevent getting sick from the most likely causes of salmonella illness. Some tips:
  • Cook eggs, poultry and ground beef all the way through at a high temperature.
  • Don’t eat raw meat or eggs or drink unpasteurized milk.
  • Wash your hands, utensils and countertops after handling raw meat or eggs.
  • Be extra-careful with food for infants, the elderly and people who are already sick.
  • Wash your hands after handling pets, birds, reptiles or animal feces.
Climate change is expected to cause more heat waves, storms and flooding, so consumers will have to prepare for new risks as well.


Join our Get Ready Day Google+ Hangout on Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. EDT. Our expert speakers will share their perspectives about climate change and speak specifically about wildfires, flooding, and vector-borne diseases.  Learn how you can prepare and reduce the risk of harm.

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