Salmonella symptoms and advice

Salmonella infections can cause gastro-intestinal illness. Find out what the symptoms are, how you can get sick, and what you can do to lower the risk.

Symptoms of Salmonella poisoning

Symptoms appear within 12 to 72 hours. They include:

  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhoea
  • fever
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting.

Illness usually lasts between 4 and 7 days. In more severe cases, it can go on for up to 10 days.

Most people get better without medical help. Drinking a lot of fluids and rest is normally all that’s needed.

When the illness gets more severe

In rare cases, it can have long-term effects, like reactive arthritis. It can also cause death, but this is very rare.

In the most severe cases the infection can spread from the intestines into the blood, and then to other parts of the body.

Contact a medical professional or doctor if:

  • your symptoms are severe (bloody diarrhoea or severe dehydration), or
  • you’re still feeling sick after more than 7 days.

How you can get sick

Most often, Salmonella infections come from eating contaminated food. High-risk foods include:

  • raw or undercooked meat, especially pork, and poultry (like chicken)
  • raw (unpasteurised) milk
  • undercooked eggs.

Lower-risk foods that can cause infection include:

  • seafood
  • fruit and vegetables (both fresh and dried)
  • nuts, spices, and tahini.

You can also get infected through:

  • contact with infected people, or food that they've handled
  • drinking contaminated water (or touching your eyes or mouth after contact with it)
  • eating other less risky foods that the bacteria has been spread to (cross-contamination).
  • contact with infected animals

Cross-contamination

If you're not careful, you can spread harmful germs to different food and surfaces. For example, if you cut raw chicken then use the same knife and chopping board for other food, the germs can spread. This can increase the risk of getting sick. This is called cross-contamination.

To help avoid this, separate foods to prevent germs spreading. Use different chopping boards and knives, and wash your hands.

Learn more about cross-contamination and how to avoid it

How to lower your risk of getting sick

Salmonella multiply quickly in warm, moist conditions, so it's important to store or refrigerate food properly to minimise bacteria growth. Unlike a lot of other bacteria, Salmonella can survive in dry conditions for a long time.

You can lower the risk of getting sick by following simple food handling tips.

  • Ensure food is properly cooked and still hot when served.
  • Avoid raw milk and products made from raw milk.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables carefully, especially if they'll be eaten raw.
  • If you’re unsure about the safety of drinking water, boil it.
  • Wash hands thoroughly and often with soap. Do this especially after:
    • handling risk foods (raw eggs, raw meat, unwashed vegetables)
    • after contact with pets or farm animals, or after going to the toilet.
  • Older people, sick people, younger children, and pregnant women should avoid high-risk foods.

How to prepare eggs safely at home

  • Keep eggs in the fridge after purchase.
  • Cook eggs thoroughly – until the white is completely firm and the yolk begins to thicken.
  • Wash your hands after handling eggs.
  • Consume eggs within the recommended date on the carton.
  • Don’t serve raw eggs to children, pregnant woman, people over 70 years, and people with low or compromised immune systems.
  • Keep surfaces and kitchen utensils clean and dry before and after handling eggs.
  • Use clean eggs free from dirt, faecal matter, and cracks.

Video – New Zealand Chef Martin Bosley shares some practical food safety tips on cooking eggs at home (1.06)

 

Video – New Zealand Chef Martin Bosley shares some practical food safety tips on cooking chicken at home (1.12)

 

Frequently asked questions [PDF, 134 KB]

Director-General privileged statement regarding Section 289 of the Food Act [PDF, 837 KB]

Food safety information for high-risk groups

Food safety advice for people with low immunity

Food and pregnancy

Our Salmonella research and risk management work

We do research and risk management work on Salmonella and other foodborne illnesses.

Salmonella food safety research and risk management

Find out more

Media release: Salmonella Enteritidis

Preparing and storing food safely at home

Clean, Cook, Chill

Learn more about raw milk and its risks

Food safety when you're sick

Who to contact

If you have questions about Salmonella infection, email info@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: