Rising Salmonella Infections: Should You Be Worried?

The most recent widespread salmonella outbreak that affected the United States was in late 2021 and early 2022. The Salmonella outbreak was linked to onions that had been imported from Mexico and over 1,000 people had been infected across 39 different states and Puerto Rico. It’s important to note that these numbers are just those that were reported, meaning the actual number of infections was likely much higher.

While the outbreak was reported to be over by February of 2022, salmonella infections seem to be on the rise, specifically those that are antibiotic-resistant. Should you be worried about these rising infections?

Although fresh onions were the cause of the late 2021 outbreak, it’s actually poultry that leads to more than one out of every five cases of infection throughout our country. With Americans eating two times the amount of chicken as they did in the 1970s, this could be a major cause for concern. This is especially true because Science Daily reports that traditional methods of testing chicken may not be enough to detect all strains of the bacteria.

Most farms take necessary precautions to avoid salmonella infection, but with the vast amount of birds and often in such an enclosed space, it can be challenging. There are also vaccinations against salmonella, but it’s required to know which type of the bacteria is present for this to be an effective course of action against it.

So should you be worried about salmonella?

The answer is maybe. It depends on your diet and hygiene practices primarily. If your diet often includes foods that have a higher risk of salmonella contamination, then it would be safe to err on the side of caution. It’s also absolutely crucial to wash all produce well, wash hands and surfaces that come into contact with raw meat and always thoroughly cook meat and eggs.

Keep in mind that it’s not just poultry that can cause salmonella infection in humans, and not just raw meat either. Many of the animals that humans consume, including cows and pigs, also carry the bacteria in their intestines. You can also come into contact with contaminated food such as milk, vegetables, fruits, and even processed foods like chocolate and peanut butter. A lesser thought of places where the salmonella bacteria exists would be pet treats, especially those from cows, pigs, and chickens. The most common plant-based food to be careful of are unwashed sprouts, which require high humidity to grow so often form the salmonella bacteria.