Nurse's Notes: Food-Borne Illness

Food-borne illnesses, often referred to as food poisoning, can result from ingesting food exposed to bacteria, viruses, or parasites.  Although it is quite uncomfortable, it's actually not uncommon.  In the United States for example, 1 in 6 people will contract some sort of food poisoning every year.

As much as we may hate to think about it, pathogens are found on just about all food that humans eat!  Cleaning, preparing, cooking, and storing food properly eliminates most pathogens that cause problems.  However when the weather outside is hot and humid, as it is in Dakar right now, eliminating and keeping pathogens away can be more challenging.  This is because many pathogens, particularly bacteria, thrive in warm environments.  Bacteria grow faster during summer months because of the hot and humid climate.

Fortunately, most cases of food poisoning are self-limited and people recover without any specific treatment.  The most important thing is to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, even if that means sipping small amounts of water throughout the day as tolerated.  Sports drinks with electrolytes, fruit juice, and coconut water are also good choices.

If symptoms of food poisoning, including fever, persist for more than 3 days, or there is a risk of dehydration, further medical attention and treatment may be needed.

Here are some resources on food-borne illness:

Mayo Clinic

National Health Service


Cheers to Your Health,

Nurse Jen