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Foodborne Illness: How to Stay Healthy

With fresh and local at the forefront of our shopping lists and the cornerstone of our holiday recipes, there’s an evil villain that sneaks on the scene: foodborne illness.

While this should never deter you from sourcing locally and finding the freshest ingredients for your table, we’ll share some tips for avoiding the three most common perpetrators, what they do, and how you can take preemptive measures against them. 

Perp #1: E.coli

Most often found in: undercooked beef, unpasteurized dairy products, raw produce

More formally Escherichia coli, this microscopic bacterium naturally occurs in your intestinal tract and aids in digestion. However, when exposed outside of the intestinal tract, particular strains like the E. coli O157:H7 can wreak havoc especially for those with weakened immune systems.

Contaminated water and foods like undercooked beef or unpasteurized dairy are prime breeding grounds for the bacteria. To best minimize your risk, ensure that all beef products are cooked to a minimum temperature of 160° Fahrenheit and that you wash all raw produce regardless of where it was purchased. Cleaning and disinfecting areas where food is prepared before and after preparation is another good way to lower risk of contamination.

Note that the symptoms of E. coli can develop and show up anywhere form one to ten days after the initial contact, making it difficult to pinpoint the source. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea and these symptoms can last up to a week. In this case, antibiotics are not recommended and most people recover within five to ten days. If this is not the case, get yourself to a GoHealth Urgent Care Center to ask a doctor.

Perp #2: Salmonella

Most often found in: Undercooked poultry, eggs, unpasteurized dairy products

The salmonella bacteria are known to cause an infection known as Salmonellosis. This bacterium finds its happy home in undercooked poultry, eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products.

Raw cookie dough eaters beware! Easily reduce your chance of illness by always avoiding raw eggs in cookie dough, cake batter, in some salad dressings, and hollandaise sauce. All cooked poultry should reach a minimum of 160° Fahrenheit and all raw poultry should never be cross-contaminated with produce.

Salmonellosis symptoms can present anywhere from 12-72 hours after initial contact which include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever. Most people recover within four to seven days, although sometimes diarrhea and dehydration may be sever enough that it is necessary to seek medical attention.

Perp #3: Novoviruses

Most often found in: raw produce, shellfish, contaminated water

These crafty viruses are wildly contagious and cause an estimated half of all foodborne illness. Because they are so easily transmitted, brief contact with an infected person or simply touching a contaminated surface can transmit the virus. This is especially so in daycare centers, so keep a sharp eye out, Mom.

Raw produce and shellfish are inhabitable for these viruses as well, so taking the time to properly clean and prep your food can go a long way. And, as always, disinfecting your food workspaces is integral in reducing your chance of spreading the virus.

Novovirus symptoms present in a quick 12 to 48 hours following exposure and can include cramps, nausea, diarrhea, fever, headache and vomiting. As is similar for both salmonella and E. coli, the best way to set yourself on the road to recovery is rest and plenty of fluids. If symptoms persist longer than a week, head over to a GoHealth Urgent Care Center to get a doctor’s recommendation. 

We want you to maximize family time this holiday season. GoHealth Urgent Care Centers are here to help you stay on your feet even when you’re thrown a curveball. For more on how to make this a holiday for the books, keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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