Picnicking without salmonella in Vail Valley
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –There’s nothing like the smell of steak or even chicken, burgers or hot dogs cooking on a hot barbecue grill in Colorado’s Vail Valley. The fixings are lined up on the picnic table with plates of fresh green salads, fruits and vegetables, cole slaw, potato salad and beans. My mouth is watering already. Unfortunately, for six million (gulp!) of us, that food is shared with a variety of bacteria, parasites and viruses in enough concentration to cause food poisoning. With names like Salmonella, Shigella, Escherichia Coli, Campylobacter jejuni and Staphylococcus aureus, it is no wonder we don’t want them on our invitation list. Campylobacter jejuni has been listed by the FDA as the most common cause of food poisoning. They estimate up to 88 percent of chicken we purchase contains these bacteria.
Although some people have better “noses” than others for smelling spoiled food, often the contaminated food neither tastes nor smells badly. In fact, by the time food smells “bad” it is heavily contaminated by bacteria. It is the gas produced by these bacteria which results in the foul odor.
Most food poisoning is fortunately not serious except for the very young and those with underlying medical problems. The nausea and vomiting present most commonly within 1 to 6 hours, with diarrhea often striking 8 to 24 hours later. Our bodies are pretty smart. The miserable nausea, vomiting, fevers and diarrhea are the best way to rid ourselves of the unwelcome guest. Although symptoms rarely last longer than 72 hours, those are long hours you’ll never forget. When symptoms persist however, or if they are severe, contact your doctor. Dehydration is the most common serious consequence of food poisoning. Rarely, sepsis (a blood infection), meningitis (infection of the nervous system) and other worrisome complications occur. These more serious problems are often managed with antibiotics and intravenous fluid hydration.
For most of us, keeping hydrated is the task and challenge of the day. Frequent, small sips of water or sports drinks are a must. For young children under two years of age, water and Pedialyte are best. Avoid caffeine, carbonation and dairy products. Solid foods are OK but bland may be better if nausea and vomiting are the most severe problem.
Dr. Drew Werner is the vice chief of staff at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs and the Eagle County Health Officer. He lives in Eagle with his family. E-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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