Foodborne Illnesses: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment

Foodborne Illnesses can be triggered due to food & drink contamination. You must explore here to know the actual causes, symptoms & treatment for it

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projected that an immense number of 48 million foodborne illness cases transpire in the United States annually.

Foodborne Illnesses: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment
Experiencing Abdominal Cramp or Nausea could be due to Foodborne Illnesses

And, 128,000 of these numbers are admitted to the hospitals, and 3,000 die after consuming contaminated food.

Foodborne illness, also known as foodborne disease or food poisoning, is triggered by taking in contaminated foods or drinks. Microbes and pathogens can contaminate what you eat and drink, which can lead to various foodborne illnesses.

Many foodborne illnesses are due to different bacteria, parasites, and viruses[1]. Other illnesses are infections due to chemicals or harmful toxins that contaminate food.

One can also acquire foodborne diseases by having direct contact with various animals or by person-to-person contact.

Also Read: Food Allergy – Do’s and Don’ts

Foodborne Illnesses Info

Signs and Symptoms of Foodborne Illnesses

Common symptoms of foodborne illness are:

Additionally, the toxins found in C. botulinum and other chemicals affect the nervous system, which can cause the following symptoms:

  • Blurring of vision
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness or tingling in the skin
  • Paralysis

The incubation time or the period between contacting the pathogen and the start of symptoms can vary from some hours to seven days.

Causes of Foodborne Illnesses

Below is a list of the prevailing causes of foodborne diseases:

Causes of Foodborne Illnesses

  • Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infection (E. coli O157)
  • Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)
  • Salmonellosis (Salmonella)
  • Norovirus Infection
  • Cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium)
  • Campylobacteriosis (Campylobacter)
  • Giardiasis (Giardia)
  • Listeriosis (Listeria monocytogenes)
  • Yersiniosis (Yersinia species)
  • Scombroid Fish Poisoning
  • Shigellosis (Shigella)
  • Vibrio Infection (Vibrio parahaemolyticus)
  • Toxoplasmosis[2] (Toxoplasma gondii)

Risks of Foodborne Illnesses

Foodborne diseases can lead to HUS or hemolytic uremic syndrome, dehydration, and other problems. Acute foodborne diseases can also cause chronic health complications or sometimes death.

  • Dehydration happens when an individual doesn’t drink sufficient fluids to help replace what was lost during diarrhea and vomiting. Severe dehydration, if left unattended, can lead to severe health complications like coma, organ damage or shock.
  • HUS or hemolytic uremic syndrome is a rare illness that mainly affects kids below ten years of age. Hemolytic uremic syndrome transpires after an E. coli bacteria pathogen is trapped in the digestive tract create toxins that go into the bloodstream. The toxin then begins to terminate blood cells responsible for clotting and also destroys blood vessel linings. Symptoms of Hemolytic uremic syndrome[3], which includes reduced urination, irritability and paleness may progress for up to seven days after the symptoms of E. coli appear. HUS may have a negative effect on other body organs and the central nervous system and can lead to acute renal failure.
  • Certain chemicals found in fish and seafood and toxins created by Clostridium botulinum may result in paralysis of the muscles that control breathing.
  • Listeria monocytogenes infection can lead to stillbirth and unplanned abortion among pregnant women.
  • Infection from Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni can cause chronic disorders, such as Reactive Arthritis. Campylobacter jejuni infection can also lead to IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which is an illness that’s described by paralysis or muscle weakness.
  • Infection from E. coli has also been found out to raise the chances of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and kidney complications.

See Also: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Causes, Signs and Treatment


Foodborne infection can be easily diagnosed through certain laboratory tests that help in identifying the causative bacteria or pathogen.

  • Bacteria like E. coli 0157, Salmonella, and Campylobacter are identified by culturing stool samples and determining the bacteria that develops in the culture medium or on the agar.
  • Parasites can be recognized by studying stool samples through a microscope.
  • Viruses, on the other hand, are quite hard to identify, for they are extremely small to look through a light microscope and are tough to culture. Viruses are normally determined by analyzing stool samples for genetic markers that show a particular virus.


Foodborne Illnesses

There a lot of kinds of foodborne illnesses, which require specific treatments that depend on the symptoms that they display.

Diseases that are mainly diarrhea or vomiting can result in dehydration[4] if an individual loses a lot of body fluids and electrolytes as compared to what they take.

  • Lost fluids and electrolytes should be replaced and maintaining fluid intake is vital.
  • If diarrhea worsens, oral rehydration solutions like Oralyte, Pedialyte or Ceralyte should be taken to help replace lost fluid and prevent further dehydration. Sports drink like Gatorade is not enough to replace lost fluids and is not advisable for treating diarrheal sickness.
  • Bismuth sub salicylate preparations like Pepto-Bismol can help to decrease simple diarrhea’s duration and severity.
  • If you are experiencing diarrhea and cramps without fever or bloody stool, then taking antidiarrheal meds can help provide relief from symptoms. But if fever or bloody stool is present then antidiarrheal meds should be avoided since they may worsen the illness.

Precautions and Self Care

  • Drink lots of fluids like sports drinks, caffeinated soft drinks, fruit juices, and broth to help replace fluids and electrolytes.
  • Drink small quantities of fluids or sucking ice chips if vomiting doesn’t stop.
  • Slowly introduce food again, starting with foods that are easy to digest and bland food like bread, potatoes, rice, cereal, bananas, lean meat, and applesauce.
  • Adults or older adults that have weak immune systems are advised to take in oral rehydration solutions to avoid dehydration.
  • Avoid alcohol, dairy products, caffeine, fatty foods, and sugary foods until you fully recover.

Infants and children posed special precaution since they are more likely to be more dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea because they have a small body. Below are steps that can help in relieving symptoms and stop further dehydration among infants[5] and children:

  • Provide oral rehydration solutions to inhibit dehydration
  • Provide bland foods after the child gets hungry
  • Provide both oral rehydration solutions and breast milk or full strength formula

Foodborne disease can be acquired easily; however, you can take simple steps to decrease the chances getting foodborne diseases by

  • Following food safety guidelines like washing of hands before and after food handling
  • Cleaning utensils and surfaces correctly
  • Ensuring that foods are cooked in a proper way

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