A sudden and strong onset of symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and overall weakness often indicate a case of foodborne illness. Every year roughly 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses, resulting in more than 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Also referred to as food poisoning, common sources of foodborne illnesses include bacteria, viruses, toxins and parasites. There are more than 250 different types of foodborne diseases, but some of the most prevalent ones are E. coli, botulism, salmonella, listeria, norovirus and shigella. Each can cause extreme discomfort, with more serious cases necessitating treatment at a hospital.
Fortunately, says Ruth Liu, M.D., a family medicine doctor with the Sutter Medical Foundation, people can take steps to prevent the likelihood of contracting one of these diseases. Whether at a picnic or eating at a restaurant, it’s important to be aware of what foods are on the table, how the food items are prepared and how leftovers are stored.
“It seems that food recalls are always in the news, so you can never be too careful with the items you choose to eat,” Dr. Liu says. “Following a few simple precautions may decrease the ability of foodborne illnesses to inhibit your daily activities.”