Food Infection - Food Poisoning - Food Poisoning Therapy - Traveler's Diarrhea

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Food Infection - Food Poisoning - Food Poisoning Therapy - Traveler's Diarrhea
Food Infection - Food Poisoning - Food Poisoning Therapy - Traveler's Diarrhea

Video: Food Infection - Food Poisoning - Food Poisoning Therapy - Traveler's Diarrhea

Video: Food Infection - Food Poisoning - Food Poisoning Therapy - Traveler's Diarrhea
Video: Infectious Diarrhea & Food Poisoning – Infectious Diseases | Lecturio 2023, May

Food infections: diagnosis & therapy

Food infections usually go without serious complications and heal on their own. The therapy focuses primarily on compensating for the loss of electrolytes and fluids due to diarrhea and / or vomiting. However, an accurate diagnosis is important. The detailed information provided by the patient provides important information.


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  • How is the diagnosis made?
  • How is food infection treated?
  • What complications can arise?
  • Whom can I ask?
  • How are the costs going to be covered?

How is the diagnosis made?

When taking the medical history (anamnesis), the doctor informs himself about the patient's complaints. It is important to find out which food and drinks the patient has consumed (e.g. raw sausages, meat, cheese, fish, salad, etc.) and in which period the symptoms occurred. It is also informative for the doctor whether a (long-distance) trip has been undertaken in the past. This can already be several weeks or months ago and still be related to the symptoms of the disease. Usually, based on this information, the doctor can already infer a pathogen or a toxin (toxins from bacteria, for example). If symptoms persist for a long time, stool,Vomit and / or blood and cerebrospinal fluid are tested for pathogens or toxins in the laboratory. There is also the option of testing suspicious foods for pathogens or toxins.

Note If you have traveled to tropical regions in the past, you should examine three different chairs. In addition, the presence of malaria must be excluded at the corresponding destination.

Notifiable diseases

In order to prevent the spread of diseases in good time, food poisoning must be reported. These include bacterial infections caused by Salmonella enterica, E. coli, Campylobacter, Shigella, Listeria monocytogenes, Yersinia enterocolitica, Staphylococcus aureus etc. as well as viral food poisoning (eg noroviruses). The doctor must report this to the responsible district administrative authority (including health authorities) within 24 hours of the diagnosis.

You can find more information on the website of the Federal Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection under Notifiable diseases in Austria. For more information on the procedure for reporting a disease, see Legal Basis and Reporting of Communicable Diseases or Epidemiological Reporting System (EMS).

How is food infection treated?

Food infections usually proceed without serious complications and heal on their own after a few days (self-limiting). The focus of the therapy is on compensating for the loss of fluid and electrolytes due to diarrhea and / or vomiting.

However, dehydration can lead to serious complications, especially in children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. The loss of electrolytes (minerals) must be replaced by an adequate amount of drinking. Especially when vomiting - even if it is difficult - you should definitely drink enough.

Water and teas as well as special electrolyte preparations are suitable for balancing the fluids. If no electrolyte preparation is available, a salt and sugar solution for drinking can be made with simple ingredients. Of this, 40 ml per kilogram of body weight should be consumed within one day (24 hours). For a child weighing 30 kg, for example, this corresponds to 1.2 liters.

Ingredients for one liter of electrolyte drinking solution:

  • 8 level teaspoons of sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 0.5 liters of mineral water
  • 0.5 liters of orange juice

Note Not suitable to compensate for the loss of fluids and electrolytes are strongly carbonated drinks as well as cola and pretzel sticks.

Antibiotics only for certain pathogens

Antibiotics and drugs that inhibit peristalsis are only administered after the pathogen has been identified and under medical supervision. Drugs that inhibit peristalsis (such as loperamide and racecadotril) inhibit diarrhea. Loperamide is not used for infections caused by certain pathogens (e.g. Campylobacter, Salmonella) (contraindication).

The use of antibiotics is only indicated for certain pathogens, such as listeriosis. In cholera, the administration of antibiotics plays a subordinate role and is only used in severe cases. An infection with Salmonella should only be treated with antibiotics in exceptional cases. The use of antibiotics can prolong the excretion of bacteria and develop resistance. Therapy that balances the water and electrolyte balance is usually sufficient.

In the case of an infection with E. coli including verotoxin (VTEC), antibiotics should not be used. The reason: the bacteria can produce more toxins under antibiotic therapy. This can make the disease worse and increase the rate of complications. In addition, serious secondary diseases (e.g. HUS) could develop, which make intensive medical treatment necessary.

In the event of an infection with noroviruses, therapy usually consists of compensating for the loss of fluid and electrolytes, which can be considerable. Antibiotics cannot be used here as they only work against bacteria and are therefore ineffective against noroviruses.

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease and can be treated with certain antibiotics as well as with antiprotozoics (e.g. pyrimethamine) during pregnancy. However, antibiotics are only used when they first appear during pregnancy (first manifestation).

Note Toxoplasmosis screening takes place during pregnancy as part of the mother-child pass examinations.

What complications can arise?

In certain groups of people, a food infection can also lead to complications or severe courses. Pregnant women, babies and toddlers, the elderly and people with a weakened immune system are at risk.

Haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a possible serious complication of a verotoxin-producing E. coli infection (VTEC). This can lead to the destruction of blood vessels, which can lead to acute kidney failure, anemia and neurological changes. Depending on the extent and consequences of the food infection or poisoning (e.g. severe dehydration, risk of complications), an inpatient stay in hospital may be necessary.

Be careful during pregnancy

Listeria in particular pose a risk to pregnant women: In addition to the increased risk of infection during pregnancy, it can also be transmitted from mother to child. The result can sometimes be a miscarriage (abortion). If an infection with the toxoplasmosis pathogen occurs for the first time during pregnancy, this can lead to malformations of the unborn child, premature births or miscarriages.

You can find more information on pregnancy in the brochure Pregnancy - Avoiding Food Infections (AGES).

Whom can I ask?

Whom can I ask?

In the event of severe food poisoning (e.g. diarrhea lasting more than three to four days, blood in the stool, high fever, chills, severe convulsions), an emergency call should be made (Rescue 144). The emergency number of the Poisoning Information Center for Austria (VIZ) on +43 (0) 1 406 43 43 provides information on how to proceed.

You can also contact the following offices to clarify complaints:

  • General Practitioner,
  • Specialist in internal medicine (infectious diseases, gastroenterology and hepatology) and
  • Specialist in paediatrics and adolescent medicine.

How are the costs going to be covered?

The e-card is your personal key to the benefits of the statutory health insurance. All necessary and appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic measures are taken over by your responsible social insurance agency. A deductible or contribution to costs may apply for certain services. You can obtain detailed information from your social security agency. Further information can also be found at:

  • Right to treatment
  • Visit to the doctor: costs and deductibles
  • What does the hospital stay cost?
  • Prescription fee: This is how drug costs are covered
  • Health professions A – Z

and via the online guide to reimbursement of social insurance costs.

Emergency when traveling

If a food-borne illness occurs while traveling, a visit to the hospital or a doctor may be necessary.

You can find out more about this under Emergencies abroad and Treatment in other EU countries.

Further information is available from:

  • Food hygiene (BMSGPK)
  • Salmonella (AGES)
  • Toxoplasmosis (AGES)
  • E. coli (AGES)
  • Listeria (AGES)
  • Overview of pathogens and incubation period (

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