Salmonella Heidelberg FAQ

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DHS has developed resources for farm workers, farm owners, and the general public on information important to keeping you and your family safe and healthy.Hand washing after animal contact

 

Common questions regarding how to protect yourself, your family, or your farm workers from common Salmonella infections and specifically Salmonella Heidelberg.

For General Public

What is Salmonella?

Salmonella bacteria commonly live in the intestines of many types of animals, including cattle. Cattle can carry Salmonella bacteria and may become ill but may look healthy. Young calves are more likely to get sick if they are infected. The primary way people get infected from cattle on farms is through direct contact with the animal's stool or its environment. Salmonella can also be spread by person to person contact.

This kind of Salmonella is called "multi-drug resistant". What does this mean?

Most people with Salmonella infections do not require antibiotic treatment. However, some people will need an antibiotic. There are certain antibiotics health care providers typically prescribe for the treatment of most strains of Salmonella infections; however this outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg is resistant to those antibiotics. Doctors can prescribe other antibiotics for cases of the infection after confirming the infection is caused by this strain of Salmonella Heidelberg.

Who is most at risk from illnesses from Salmonella Heidelberg?

In this specific outbreak, most people who have become ill have been exposed to livestock. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and any person with an immune compromising health condition can be at an increased risk to acquire the bacterial infection. Children and immunosuppressed persons who do become ill are more likely to develop serious illness.

Children often increase their risk of infection because of infrequent hand washing and common hand to mouth practices such as using pacifiers, thumb sucking, and eating without washing hands beforehand. 

Even people who do not have direct contact with livestock or manure can become infected if other people in their home inadvertently carry the organisms into the home or vehicle on their hands, clothes or shoes.

How do I protect myself from Salmonella Heidelberg exposure if I am visiting a farm?

DO:
  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after you are done touching livestock.
  • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not immediately available, but follow-up by washing with soap and water as soon as possible.
  • Supervise small children during any animal encounter and discourage behaviors that can increase their risk of illness.
DO NOT:
  • Do not allow young children and immune-compromised persons to have direct contact with calves, especially those with diarrhea (scours).
  • Do not allow toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers, or similar items in livestock areas.
  • Do not eat or drink in the areas where livestock are present.

Should I avoid eating meat or drinking milk?

There is no reason to avoid purchasing or consuming Wisconsin beef or dairy products.

When eating beef continue to follow food safety recommendations and heat ground beef to 160 degrees Fahrenheit  and beef roasts or steaks to a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

What is Wisconsin DHS doing about the outbreak?

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH), Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (WVDL), Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and other state health departments are investigating the outbreak of multi-drug resistant (MDR) Salmonella Heidelberg infections in Wisconsin.

Epidemiological evidence, traceback, and laboratory findings have identified contact with dairy bull calves purchased in Wisconsin as the likely source of most infections. For more information on the ongoing epidemiological investigation, visit the 2016-2017 investigation page.

For Farm Workers
and Owners

How do I protect myself or my workers from Salmonella Heidelberg?

Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after coming in contact with animals.

Wash hands after you are done touching or working with livestock, handling equipment used on animals, or coming into contact with anything in the area where animals are present. This is especially important to do before preparing or consuming food or drink for yourself or others.

Use designated work clothing during the workday.

Use separate shoes, work gloves, and clothing when working with livestock. Keep these items outside of your home, or remove or change immediately when arriving home, to prevent contamination of the home environment.

Change or remove soiled clothing and boots before getting into vehicles. Wash hands after taking off any clothes and shoes you wore while working with livestock.

When caring for calves with scours, it is especially important to practice good hygiene. This will help prevent transmission of potential germs between calves as well as reduce the risk of illness to yourself, your coworkers, and your family members.

Supervise small children and immune-compromised persons who come onto the farm.

Do not eat or drink in the areas where livestock are present. Young children and immune-compromised persons should avoid direct contact with calves, especially calves with with diarrhea (scours).

Do not allow toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers, or similar items in livestock areas.

 

How do I protect my family from Salmonella Heidelberg?

Families of people who work on farms can be exposed to the bacteria if they come into contact with work clothing that had been on a farm with cattle. People who work on farms should always wash their hands thoroughly after the workday. It is important that they use designated work clothing during the workday.

  • Use separate shoes, work gloves, and clothing when working with livestock. Keep these items outside of your home, or remove or change immediately when arriving home, to prevent contamination of the home environment.
  • Change or remove soiled clothing and boots before getting into vehicles. Wash hands after taking off any clothes and shoes you wore while working with livestock.

How do I protect livestock?

Be sure to work with your veterinarian to keep your livestock healthy.

  • Salmonella, including this kind of Salmonella Heidelberg can cause illness and death in cattle, especially calves. While Salmonella can't be completely eliminated from farms, producers can also ensure their own on-farm biosecurity and herd health programs are designed to reduce transmission of these organisms within their herd.
  • Only use antibiotics under the direction of your herd veterinarian.

Wisconsin DHS is conducting the human health investigation. For information on how to protect your livestock, work with your veterinarian.

What are the symptoms?

Most people infected with Salmonella develop the following signs and symptoms 12-72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps

The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body. In rare cases, Salmonella infection can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

What should I tell my healthcare provider?

If you develop symptoms of possible infection with Salmonella Heidelberg, tell your healthcare provider that you or your family work with animals. 

For Veterinarians

How do I protect myself from Salmonella Heidelberg?

Encourage workers to always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after coming in contact with animals.

Wash hands after you are done touching or working with livestock, handling equipment used on animals, or coming into contact with anything in the area where animals are present. This is especially important to do before preparing or consuming food or drink for yourself or others.

Use designated work clothing during the workday.

Use separate shoes, work gloves, and clothing when working with livestock. Keep these items outside of your home, or remove or change immediately when arriving home, to prevent contamination of the home environment.

Change or remove soiled clothing and boots before getting into vehicles. Wash hands after taking off any clothes and shoes you wore while working with livestock.

 

How do I protect my family from Salmonella Heidelberg?

Families of people who work with livestock can be exposed to the bacteria if they come into contact with work clothing that had been on a farm with cattle. People who work with livestock should always wash their hands thoroughly after the workday. It is important that they use designated work clothing during the workday.

  • Use separate shoes, work gloves, and clothing when working with livestock. Keep these items outside of your home, or remove or change immediately when arriving home, to prevent contamination of the home environment.
  • Change or remove soiled clothing and boots before getting into vehicles. Wash hands after taking off any clothes and shoes you wore while working with livestock.

 

What can I tell my clients?

 

Talk to your clients about reducing the risk of transmission of Salmonella illness from cattle to their family.

Be sure to tell clients that Salmonella infections are a zoonotic disease, meaning that the infection can spread between animals and people. If the client or any of their family members are ill, encourage them to contact a health care provider immediately.

Direct clients to the Advice for Farm Workers/Owners section.

For information on animal testing at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory:

See link here

What are the symptoms?

Most people infected with Salmonella develop the following signs and symptoms 12-72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria:

Diarrhea
Fever
Abdominal cramps

The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body. In rare cases, Salmonella infection can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

What can I tell my healthcare provider?

If you develop symptoms of possible infection with Salmonella Heidelberg, tell your healthcare provider that you or your family work with animals. 

 

 

Last Revised: January 27, 2017