Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Getting to the nut of the matter

Like a lot of folks who prefer scientific curiosity to spreading alarm or sticking one's head in the sand, I've been reading a lot on salmonella lately. The Internet is indeed a boon and a curse. Some of the most popular hits contain the most appalling ignorance, such as calling salmonella a virus; one top hit is the Yahoo Answers, where someone asked if a pizza oven can kill salmonella and the answer voted "best answer" was "no..."

As far as the sites go, there's a lot of good info on salmonella.org, although the two San Diego State researchers who work on it emphasize that they are not medical doctors and to go see one if you have symptoms.

As Margie Lee, a microbiologist at UGA's College of Veterinary Medicine, was quoted in a University of Georgia Research Magazine article a while back:
Salmonella infections also have been associated with vegetables. "Because of organic gardening, people use manure," she said, "And a lot of it hasn't been composted," which kills most types of salmonellae.
Each year, there are 23 million reported cases of illness caused by all food-borne bacteria, and of these, 9,000 are fatal. Of those, salmonella is the least threatening, Lee said.
Even though people become sick from salmonella poisoning, it rarely becomes deadly. "[Salmonella] doesn't merit the public's fear. Car accidents kill more people," Lee said. "You have to look at what is really lost, and on the whole, it's seldom life."
But since the genetic markers that indicate the deadly strain of the bacteria are not even visible under a microscope, people should play it safe. "Cook your chicken and eggs well," Lee said. "That's the bottom line."

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