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Cook eggs thoroughly to prevent infection

Much needs to be done to prevent a type of salmonella infection that is most often caused by eating raw or undercooked eggs, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cook eggs thoroughly to prevent infection

Much needs to be done to prevent a type of salmonella infection that is most often caused by eating raw or undercooked eggs, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cases of this type of salmonella, known as serotype enteritidis is an important public health problem. A bacterium, Salmonella enteritidis, may be present inside normal-appearing eggs. If these eggs are eaten raw or undercooked, the bacterium can cause illness. In the CDC's weekly report, a team of researchers describe two series of outbreaks of salmonella. One outbreak at several South Carolina prisons was traced to a tuna salad that contained eggs that were reportedly hard-boiled. Another outbreak in North Carolina was also linked to eggs. A person infected with the Salmonella enteritidis bacterium usually has fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhoea beginning 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food or beverage. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without antibiotic treatment. However, the diarrhoea can be severe, and the person may be ill enough to require hospitalisation. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems may have a more severe illness. In these patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. Most people recover on their own, but in rare cases, salmonella infection can cause serious, occasionally fatal, complications. The first-line defence against salmonella is egg control programmes in farms. Such programmes should include salmonella screening in hen houses. If salmonella is detected, these eggs can be pasteurised to make sure that they will not make anyone sick. Several egg control programmes were put in place in the US during the early 1990s, which may have contributed to a drop in human cases of salmonella in the region. The public can take several steps to prevent salmonella infections. Consumption of raw and undercooked eggs should be avoided. The risk of eating eggs that have not been thoroughly cooked is greatest for the very young and very old, as well as people with weakened immune systems. The CDC recommends cooking eggs until both the white and the yolk are firm and to eat eggs promptly after cooking. Other ways to reduce the risk of salmonella infection, include washing hands, utensils and kitchen surfaces with soap and water after handling raw eggs. Eggs should be stored at or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit at all times.

CDC Weekly Report January 2003,
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