Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illnesses are caused by eating or drinking food or beverages that are contaminated with a disease-causing microbe. Contact with these microbes in other setting can also cause an individual to become ill. Contact such as recreational or drinking water, person-to-person contact or from contact with an animal. Foodborne illnesses can be caused by a number of different bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals.

Some commonly recognized causes of foodborne illnesses are:

Botulism: A rare but serious nerve toxin produced by a bacterium that can result in diplopia, blurred vision, progressive weakness, paralysis and death. Routes of infection can include foodborne, infant exposure, wound infection and heroin use.

Cyclosporiasis (Cyclospora cayetanensis): A protozoan infection that can be asymptomatic or result in watery diarrhea with nausea, abdominal cramping, body aches and fatigue.

Listeriosis (Listeria monocytogenes): Bacteria that causes a rare infection, primarily affects pregnant women, newborns, older adults and adults with weak immune systems.

Norovirus Infection:  This is the most common cause of gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and the small and large intestines) and foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States. Norovirus can be found in the stool or vomit of infected people. It can be prevented with proper hand washing and general cleanliness.

Salmonellosis (Salmonella): Bacteria, usually lives in the intestines of animals. People primarily get infected by eating foods that have animal feces.

Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC): Bacteria that normally live in the intestines of health people and animals. There are over 700 types of E.coli, most are harmless or cause minor symptoms. There are a couple strains that can cause severe symptoms. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) can cause serious illness by producing toxins that damage the intestines and liver.

Taenia: A tapeworm usually ingested from raw or undercooked beef (Taenia saginata) or pork (Taenia solium). Symptoms can range from nonfatal to fatal, to include anorexia, insomnia, weightloss, abdominal pain, and digestive disturbances. 

Vibrio Infection (Vibrio parahaemolyticus): Bacteria that are common in saltwater, especially along the coast of the United States. Most people become infected by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, often oysters.

General symptoms of foodborne illnesses include: diarrhea and/or vomiting, abdominal cramps, nausea, fever, joint/back pain, and fatigue typically lasting 1-7 days.

The incubation period (the time between being exposed and the onset of symptoms) can range from several hours to 1 week.

If you have, or know of a suspect or confirmed foodborne illness, please report to the Hays County Epidemiologist. 

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