You suddenly are feeling ill. Your symptoms include a slight headache, nausea, fever alone with abdominal cramping.
Viral or Bacterial?
Chances are you are experiencing some form of food poisoning. It may be bacterial or viral. Bacterial infections most often occur from food you’ve eaten that is contaminated with bacteria or a living organism. In fact most foodborne illnesses come from bacteria. Viral infections on the other hand are non-living and are usually spread through person to person contact. Antibiotics may be effective to use on a bacterial infection, but are useless on a viral infection.
What to expect?
Your symptoms will depend on the type of illness you have contracted and your physical conditioning. The symptoms could last for a number of hours to multiple weeks. Depending on the severity and possible complications you may sense mild discomfort to severe dehydration. Rare cases of food poisoning may even lead to death.
What is the cause?
For the vast number of cases food poisoning requires an incubation period. What that means is that more than likely the meal you had just a few hours ago was not the cause. While spicy food may make your stomach upset quickly, food poisoning usually takes days (or even weeks) to develop.
It takes an expert to identify the true cause of food poisoning. The center for disease control can take weeks or even months to be sure of a source. In one recent case, the source of the bacteria happened to come from contaminated lettuce grown on farm land in Mexico. In another, a peanut butter factory had the bacteria growing on their equipment. In both cases, extensive investigation was needed to track down the source of the food poisoning by identifying victims and comparing commonalities that led to the infection.
Food poisoning can be caused by over 250 types of diseases, most likely a bacterium like botulism, salmonella, listeria or a norovirus. Sources of the disease could come from the farmer, the processor, food preparation surfaces or the employees handling the food.
Are there other risks?
Unfortunately the symptom of food poisoning can be vague and can also be confused with other types of illnesses. While food poisoning is normally not very severe, other illnesses that resemble it can be deadly.
It is important that for any persistent or severe symptom medical assistant should be obtained. Food poisoning can easily be mistaken for more serious diseases like, Colitus, Hepatitus A, Typhoid, and some forms of Staph infections.
What should you do?
For most cases of food poisoning, rest and extra fluids will help with the symptoms. If symptom persist or become severe, seek professional medical advice.
While most cases of food poisoning are little more than tummy aches, it is important to be on the watch for more serious symptoms that may require extra care.
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