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Salmonella and Eggs

What You Need to Know

  • Chickens and other live poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria.
  • These germs can spread from the birds to their eggs. If you eat raw or undercooked eggs, you can get sick.
  • Always handle and cook eggs properly to prevent illness.
Salmonella and Eggs

Eggs are one of nature’s most nutritious foods. But eggs can make you sick if you do not handle and cook them properly. That’s because eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.

How do eggs get Salmonella on them?

Salmonella can get on the shells of eggs. This can happen when birds lay the eggs and when eggs touch bird droppings (poop) after being laid. Touching eggs from the grocery store is not a major cause of illness because those eggs are washed before they reach stores.

Salmonella can get inside eggs too. This happens while the egg is forming inside the chicken before the egg makes a shell. Today, a lot fewer egg-laying hens have this problem than during the 1980s and 1990s, so eggs are safer. But some eggs are still contaminated with Salmonella.

How can I reduce the chance of getting sick from eggs?

  • Buy eggs from stores and suppliers that keep eggs refrigerated.
  • Keep your eggs refrigerated at 40°F or colder.
  • Discard cracked eggs.
  • Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm.
  • Cook egg dishes (frittata, quiche, casserole) to a safe internal temperature.
    • Cook egg dishes that contain meat or poultry to 165°F.
    • Cook egg dishes that do not contain meat or poultry to 160°F.
  • Consider using pasteurized*eggs and egg products.
  • Use pasteurized eggs to make foods that contain raw or lightly cooked eggs, such as hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and tiramisu.
  • Eat or refrigerate eggs and foods containing eggs promptly after cooking. Refrigerate them within 2 hours, or 1 hour if the eggs are exposed to temperatures above 90°F (like a hot car or picnic).
  • Use soap and water to wash hands and items that come into contact with raw eggs. These items include countertops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards.
  • Do not taste or eat raw dough or batter made with raw eggs, such as cookie dough or cake batter.

*Pasteurized eggs have been heated to a high enough temperature for a long enough time to kill Salmonella.

Salmonella illness can be serious and is more dangerous for some groups of people.

Most people who get sick from Salmonella have diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and stomach cramps. Symptoms usually begin 6 hours to 6 days after infection and last 4 to 7 days.

Most people recover without antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics are needed only for patients who are very ill or at risk of becoming very ill. People who have diarrhea should drink extra fluids.

Rarely, Salmonella can spread to the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection.

Some groups of people are more likely to get infected and get seriously ill. These groups include children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years and older, and people who have a weakened immune system because of a health problem or medicine that lowers the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.

Should I call the doctor?

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Diarrhea that doesn’t improve after 3 days
  • Vomiting that lasts more than 2 days
  • Signs of dehydration, including little or no urination, excessive thirst, a very dry mouth, dizziness or lightheadedness, or very dark urine
  • Fever higher than 102°F (39°C)
  • Bloody stools (poop)

Call your child’s doctor if your child has:

  • Diarrhea that doesn’t improve after 1 day
  • Vomiting that lasts more than
    • 12 hours for infants,
    • 1 day for children younger than 2 years, or
    • 2 days for other children
  • Signs of dehydration, including not urinating in 3 or more hours, dry mouth or tongue, or crying without tears
  • Fever higher than 102°F (39°C)
  • Bloody stools

Baby Chicks and Salmonella: Tyler’s Story

Erika and Tyler

Tyler and his parents enjoy fresh eggs from their backyard chickens. But the family changed how they handle their chickens after Tyler got sick with a Salmonella infection.