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What are food bacteria and how to defend yourself

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Every year, many people get sick due to food-borne pathogens, i.e. viruses, parasites, toxins and harmful bacteria present in foods which, if ingested, trigger more or less serious disorders.

These elements enter foods in different ways. The water used to irrigate the soil in which vegetables and fruit are grown, for example, can be contaminated with unwanted germs which are then transferred to them. In other cases, pathogens can be found on the skin of farm animals and subsequently penetrate meat and poultry products during slaughter and processing; or be picked up by fish that eat smaller organisms in the sea.

Finally, people infected with a foodborne illness who handle or prepare food for others can also unintentionally transfer germs.

Most bacteria require certain conditions to thrive. Warm, moist, or slightly acidic foods are more prone to bacterial growth.

Although most often from food-borne diseases it heals without any medical intervention it is useful to recognize the signs that can reveal their presence in order to prevent them in some cases.

Most common foodborne pathogens

Norovirus

Virus often cited as the most common cause of gastrointestinal disorders. There are different forms of contagion, among which the contact with infected people and surfaces, consumption of contaminated foods or drinks, fresh or ready-made foods, shellfish, sandwiches and cut fruit.

The incubation of the discomfort resulting from its attack lasts approximately 12 to 48 hours and the symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and nausea.

To reduce the risk, always wash your hands well with warm water and soap, wear gloves every time you prepare ready-to-eat foods and regularly disinfect any surfaces contaminated by the virus.

Salmonella

Bacterium that can be contracted from animal proteins such as poultry, pork, eggs and red meat, but also from fruits, vegetables, sprouts and nuts.

‌The incubation period can last from 6 hours to 6 days and the symptoms are diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain or cramps.

To reduce your risk, avoid undercooked proteins such as raw eggs and rare meat, and unpasteurized milk.

Clostridio Perfringens

This name refers to toxins produced by some bacteria that cannot be transmitted from person to person but reach the human body via animal proteins such as red meat, poultry or any food left at dangerous temperatures for more than 2 hours.

The incubation lasts from 6 to 24 hours and the symptoms are diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain or cramps.

To reduce the risk, ensure that potentially hazardous foods are cooked, reheated or held at safe temperatures. For hot ones it is better to exceed 60°, while cold ones are better than 4°.

Campylobacter

‌Also known as campylobacteriosis, this infectious microorganism is found in unpasteurized milk and poultry, shellfish and water.

The incubation lasts approximately 2 to 5 days and the symptoms are diarrhea, often containing blood, abdominal pain, cramps, fever and vomiting.

To reduce the risk, drink only pasteurized milk and water that has undergone filtration and disinfection.

Escherichia Coli

The presence of Escherichia Coli within the intestine is completely normal and the majority of these microorganisms do not induce diseases, but some specific forms or subtypes are pathogenic.

These are found in undercooked animal proteins such as raw meat, unpasteurized milk and cheese, raw fruits and vegetables, and contaminated water. Even the accidental intake of feces particles from infected animals or people can spread Escherichia coli germs.

The incubation lasts from 1 to 10 days and the symptoms are diarrhea, often containing blood, abdominal pain and vomiting.

Severe Escherichia Coli infections can lead to a condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is characterized by reduced urination, dark-colored urine, and paleness. If one or more of these symptoms appear, contact a doctor.

To reduce the risk it is a good idea to always wash your hands when preparing food and not eat high-risk foods.

Listeria

Listeria is a bacterium that can be present in unpasteurized milk and cheeses, raw fruit and vegetables, processed animal proteins such as cured meats and smoked fish products such as salmon.

The incubation lasts from 7 to 70 days and the most common symptoms are diarrhea and fever but the bacteria can cause systemic symptoms if they travel beyond the gastrointestinal tract. This condition, called invasive listeriosis, can lead to fatigue, muscle stiffness, confusion, and balance problems.

Staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococcus aureus often lives on the skin, therefore food that has been handled or prepared by anyone who has staph is a possible source of contamination. Him too foods that are not heated after preparation such as cured meats, sandwiches, salads and some desserts can be high-risk sources.

These bacteria produce toxins hence the symptoms, which are sudden nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain or crampsappear rapidly and often within 30 minutes to 8 hours.

To reduce the risk, always store food at safe temperatures, avoid preparing or handling food if you experience gastrointestinal symptoms and wash your hands well and often.

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