What is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a bacteria that causes an infection of the bowel. It is usually caught from eating contaminated or poorly cooked or handled food. Other sources are infected household pets, farm animals, or an infected person who handles food.

What are the symptoms?

An acute illness usually begins 6 - 72 hours after contact with the bacteria.  Headache develops, usually with abdominal pain. Diarrhoea, vomiting and fever often occur. It usually lasts 3 - 5 days.

How are people infected?

People become infected when they swallow the bacteria which has been shed in an infected person's or animal's faeces. Common causes include:

  • Handling raw or undercooked chicken or meat
  • Consuming unpasteurised dairy products (including raw milk)
  • Eating raw eggs, or foods with raw egg, such as cake mix, Caesar salad and homemade ice-cream
  • Eating food prepared by infected people
  • Drinking from a poor quality water supply e.g. roof or stream water
  • Contact with pets, especially puppies, kittens, reptiles and tropical fish
  • Contact with farm animals
  • Contact with infected people, including children and babies


How is it treated?

Usually extra fluid and rest are recommended. However, a doctor should always be consulted and may give further treatment (only rarely will an antibiotic be prescribed). Food workers must provide faeces specimens clear of salmonella bacteria before going back to work.


How do I protect myself and others?

  • Avoid contact with infants, very elderly or ill people while you have diarrhoea.

Look after food carefully:

  • Thaw frozen meat completely
  • Cook meat and poultry thoroughly
  • Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods in the refrigerator
  • Store raw foods underneath cooked foods to prevent contamination
  • Clean knives, cutting boards and other surfaces after contact with raw meat and poultry
  • Don't handle food if you have diarrhoea - you could spread the illness


  • Wash your hands:
    • After going to the toilet or changing nappies
    • After playing or working with animals
    • Before handling food
    • After touching raw meat or chicken


Do I need to take time off work, school or preschool?

  • Stay away from work, school or preschool when you have diarrhoea. 
  • People who work with food will be required to submit faecal specimens before they are allowed to return to work. 
  • Close contacts of cases will need to submit faecal specimens if they work with food. 
  • Staff of health facilities or early childhood centres should not return to work until they are free from symptoms for 48 hours.
  • Children should not return to early childhood centres until they are free from symptoms for 48 hours.

For advice on where and when to submit specimens contact a Health Protection Officer.


For more information about this illness contact a Health Protection Officer on 0800 221 555.