The organisms of the salmonella group are divisible into those that cause enteric fever, Salmonella typhi and Salmonella paratyphi A, B, C, and those that are the agents of food poisoning. The salmonellae that cause food poisoning and subsequently result in holiday illness claims are classified into more than 2000 serotypes able to invade and infect travellers.
Hundreds of holidaymakers become infected by this vicious bacterium yearly according to the Health Protection Agency. However, travellers staying at expensive hotels on package holidays would not suffer from food-borne illness if what they ate and drank had been prepared and handled properly.
Salmonellosis is arguably the most frequent and notorious type of bacteriological food poisoning to strike holidaymakers overseas. The most usual food-borne strain is Salmonella Enteritidis, which attacks the intestine.
It was in pigs' intestines that Salmonella was initially identified by a US vet named Daniel Salmon. Salmonella reach food directly or indirectly from animal excreta at time of slaughter, from human excreta, or water polluted by sewage. It can also be transferred in the kitchen from raw to cooked foods by hands, surfaces, utensils and other equipment. Illness is more likely to occur when large numbers of organisms are ingested, after multiplication in food which is allowed to stand at atmospheric temperature for some hours.
The illness incubates between 6 and 72 hours or even longer after eating the contaminated food. If you have Salmonella, you'll feel unwell and you'll notice these symptoms:
These acute symptoms may go on for around 7 days with residual effects, after which they can last an indeterminate time according to how bad the infection is and your general state of health.
Salmonella food poisoning leads to a huge fluid loss, dehydration and further problems which could require a doctor and even hospital treatment. It's important to drink lots of fluid, to replenish what you've lost through diarrhoea and vomiting.
Hot overseas climates commonly cause dehydration and hasten the loss of fluid in those who are sick, with youngsters and older people especially at risk.
Although it doesn't happen that often, the illness causes some individuals to suffer from secondary medical complications. These include: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS); Kidney dehydration; Lactose (milk) intolerance; Diarrhoea or constipation; and Reactive arthritis painfully affecting the joints.
Further facts about salmonella and travellers diarrhoea can be found on our information page.
The principal cause of the infection is the consumption of contaminated: chicken and eggs; food made from raw eggs (mayo, salad dressings etc.); non-pasteurised milk; creamy cakes and puddings; and ice cream.
Salmonella is unaffected by either wet or dry conditions, which means water can cause infection, particularly after contamination by bird or animal droppings.
There's a variety of causes of infection, some more unexpected than others:
The outbreaks of Salmonella we hear about through the media tend to happen at foreign hotels, especially where mealtimes are pre-arranged, such as on all-inclusive holidays. Often the same food might be eaten by everyone staying in the hotel, presented as a buffet and inadequately warmed up or cooled down.
Infected food can spread the bacteria to other foods, which can quickly cause the sickness to spread. Ambient temperature – that's the natural warmth of the room – is the perfect source of Salmonella. And the poisoning is communicable, which means the infection can be readily spread by any infected human, bird or animal.
Britain has occasional problems with Salmonella, generally when people are grouped together, such as at festivals and big outdoor events.
Virtually all foreign holidays in hot climates pose risks of Salmonella infection and food poisoning. Among the regions that have prompted people to contact our holiday illness claims team for Salmonella compensation include: Cuba, Egypt and Turkey.
If you have suffered from Salmonella food poisoning while on holiday, please contact us for further information and free advice about making a holiday illness claim.
Whilst some precautions can be taken on holiday (see below) it often pays to research your hotel prior to booking and ensure that it has good hygiene standards. Websites from companies, such as, Check Safety First are invaluable.
See a doctor straight away if you think you have Salmonella food poisoning. Replace lost fluids with vitamin, mineral and electrolyte drinks, while anti-inflammatory medication like Ibuprofen can ease pain. The infection easily spreads to other people so high standards of personal cleanliness are vital when the sickness becomes acute.
If your doctor or a UK hospital diagnoses infection, they are obliged to report it. Don't be alarmed if the Environmental Health Department contacts you, even before you have had your GP's diagnosis.
You won't be allowed back at work until you've tested clear, especially if you work with food or with children, older people or anyone prone to sickness.
As experts in holiday illness claims, Simpson Millar can take up no-win, no-fee Salmonella food poisoning cases. This means you'll get the entire compensation award. And our specialists can help you whatever country was the source of your illness.
We're presently assisting various groups of tourists who were infected by Salmonella poisoning in Turkey, Egypt, the Canary Islands, Cuba, Spain and Dominican Republic.
For news of the hotels we're keeping an eye on for Salmonella food poisoning, check out our Holiday Hotel Watch blog and our special feature Hotel Watch.