We love Thanksgiving. The friends and family, and the endless buffet of food. However, one thing we don't love is that sudden bout of stomach pain, upset stomach, or other sickness that can be a real possibility on the holidays. Here are some of the most common foodborne illnesses out there, and how to avoid them this holiday season.
The Norovirus is the leading cause of diarrhea and host of viral foodborne illnesses. It is highly contagious and one of the most common ones you'll find during the holidays. It is transmitted person to person and by coming in contact, usually orally, with norovirus-laden fecal matter. This can be as easily done as not washing your hands after going to the bathroom and grabbing food off a platter. To prevent the norovirus, keep hard surfaces clean with bleach-water and wash your hands after every bathroom trip. Don't let your bare hands come in contact with food items. The norovirus has a half-day to two-day incubation period before symptoms emerge. Symptoms of the illness include a low fever, nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea.
Shiga toxin producing E. coli
This specific type of E. coli bacteria-induced illness is able to bring about death, so it is naturally more serious than some of the other stomach bugs going around. The young and the elderly are more apt to get this illness and those with suppressed immune systems. To keep this contagion at bay, you'll need to cook meat completely, use a thermometer to make sure. Don't let raw beef, or its juices, come in contact with any other food item. Don't use unpasteurized milk. These are simple ways to prevent this. There is a three to nine day incubation period for the illness and its symptoms are severe abdominal cramping with watery to bloody diarrhea.
This illness is more likely to be passed through fecal matter-polluted water. It generally strikes young, old, and the immune system compromised. To prevent the spread of this foodborne illness, don't let your hands touch food while they are bare. Wash your produce and get your water from a trusted source. Lastly, wash your hands after every bathroom visit. Shigella has an incubation period lasting 12 to 50 hours. The symptoms for the illness include diarrhea, with or without blood or mucus, and fever. There can be abdominal cramping and vomiting as well.
This holiday season, practice safe food handling. Wash more than you think is necessary, keep hot food hot and the cold food cold, and make sure that you don't let foods intermingle often. Stay safe and enjoy the food-loving holidays. With these tips and precautions, you can enjoy your food now without paying for it later.