Many people turn to chicken as a healthy alternative to red meat because of its lower fat content, but chicken can also cause health problems. In 2009, "Consumer Reports" found that 66 percent of chicken it tested was contaminated with either salmonella or campylobacter, bacteria that can cause sometimes life-threatening food poisoning. Proper cooking to 165 degrees Fahrenheit can prevent food poisoning from these bacteria. Don’t use color as a gauge of whether chicken is cooked to a safe temperature because smoked chicken may appear pink cooked or uncooked.
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The main symptoms of salmonella and campylobacter center around intestinal disturbances. Abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting occur within one to two days after ingesting salmonella and within two to ten days after ingesting campylobacter. Diarrhea may be bloody in campylobacter or very liquid in salmonella. Diarrhea lasts around four days in salmonella. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if diarrhea is severe in campylobacter. Around 50 percent of people with salmonella also have a fever, according to Faqs.org, which can occur in campylobacter as well.
Salmonella Typhi, a type of salmonella bacterium carried only by humans, causes typhoid fever. Chickens don’t carry salmonella, but infected food handlers can contaminate food while preparing it, and if chicken is undercooked, the infection can spread via the food. Typhoid fever causes around 21.5 million infections worldwide, although only around 400 occur in the United States, mostly in people with a recent history of travel abroad, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. Symptoms of typhoid fever include a very high fever, up to 104 degrees F; weakness; stomach pain; and headache. Typhoid fever often causes a flat, rose-colored rash.
Bacteremia occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. Salmonella can infect bone, called osteomylitis; infections of the sac around the heart, called pericarditis; meningitis, an infection in the brain or spinal cord; liver infection, called hepatitis; or lung infections, such as pneumonia. Bacteremia most often occurs in people with compromised immune systems, such as people taking immunosuppressant drugs, people undergoing chemotherapy, people with a damaged or absent spleen or people who take medications that decrease stomach acid. Stomach acid helps protect the intestines from infection.
Campylobacter infection can lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a temporary paralysis that starts at the feet and moves upward, in around 1 in 2,000 cases, according to a 1998 article in “Emerging Infectious Diseases," the magazine of the National Center for Infectious Diseases. Guillain-Barre starts with weakness and tingling in the lower extremities and can cause almost complete paralysis, eventually requiring a breathing machine. Although most people recover from the disorder, some weakness may remain.