Your mom wasn’t kidding about washing your hands — and here’s why

Nikki Sommer, a nurse with Key West Surgical Group, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM on Wednesday for Medical Matters this morning.

The topic the last few weeks has been colitis and today let’s talk bacteria.

Campylobacter is one infection that can lead to problems in the intestines.

Sommer said, “Campylobacter, one in four key global causes of diarrhea cases. So it is considered the most common bacterial gastroenteritis infection in the world. That’s according to the CDC. So Campylobacter infections, they’re mild, but I didn’t know this and not to freak anybody out, but can be fatal in very young children, elderly and immunosuppressed individuals.”

The disease typically comes from contaminated food or water and it’s mostly chickens, turkeys and cows.

Sommer explained, “There is no sign or symptom. They carry it, I think it’s in their intestinal track. But if you touch it, or the meat from it, it can be in the meat from these animals. If it’s not cooked correctly, that’s how you can get Campylobacter. It even can be in milk. That’s why we pasteurize raw milk.”

Twenty-four percent of raw chicken is contaminated.

Sommer said, “Fruit and vegetables can come in contact with soil or water from fecal material from cows, birds and other animals. So it that’s why it’s important you wash your fruits and veggies.”

Even a single drop of juice from raw chicken can contain enough bacteria to infect someone. So if a cutting board is used to cut raw chicken and isn’t washed properly, that could be a way a person could be infected.

Contact with cat or dog feces can also make a person sick.

It’s not usually spread from one person to another, though.

Sommer said, “The symptoms are diarrhea, can be bloody, can have abdominal cramping. They will not go away on their own. Usually if it’s greater than a week, it’s a problem. You would need to have your stool tested. This is a common reason why people come to us and have a colonoscopy because they have had symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramping, even blood in their stool. So there’s something infectious going on. So a sample is taken during the colonoscopy and then once it’s confirmed if that’s what it is, it’s very easily treated with some antibiotics.”

Salmonella is an infection that comes also from contaminated food.

Sommer said, “They can begin six hours or six days after the infection and it can last four to seven days. Some people can develop symptoms for several weeks after the infection. But salmonella strain, it’s not just in the stool, it’s in urine, blood, bones, joints, the nervous system. It can be in more than one spot.”

It can usually be discovered in urine and/or a stool sample.

Sommer said, “It lives in the intestines of people and animals from a variety of sources. It’s contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, touching infected animals, making sure if you have dogs, cats or you are near a farm, you need to just hand washing, hand washing, hand washing.”

Most people can recover from salmonella infection on their own within four to seven days.

Sommer said, “That’s why I say with like the Campylobacter, for example, that doesn’t go away. So a four to seven day window, if you’re not better, there’s something else going on. It’s not salmonella. If it doesn’t go away by itself, then that’s when another bugger could be the culprit.”

There can be long-term effects from these bacterial infections, including reactive arthritis, eye irritation and pain when urinating.

Sommer said, “The people who are most at risk are children under five years old, infants, because kids are always putting their fingers in their mouth. People taking certain medications, for example, stomach acid reducers.”