Foodborne illness is caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, heavy metals, natural toxins and may be ingredient driven. Once the cause of the food illness is identified, the individual is treated accordingly. Until the cause is known, the symptoms are treated. Symptoms may include runny stools, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting. They can be self-limiting or severe enough to cause death.
Common risk factors for exposure of food borne illness are but not limited to, raw or undercooked meats, fish and poultry, dairy products, poor food preparation, cross-contamination, working around animals or traveling outside the country. Crowding and poor hygiene are risk factors for illness so the incidence of exposure in day care, hospital facilities and restaurants are high.
An outbreak is considered an incident where 2 or more people experience a similar illness resulting from the ingestion of common food. Incubation or onset of symptoms may take hours to several days with a duration of illness ranging from short to long. Bacterial infection is typically the longer duration. Food borne illness continues to be a public threat. It is essential to seek medical care as the health care professional plays a key role in prevention by educating and providing resources on food safety.
Trisha M. Pacenti RN,BSN