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UB Infectious Disease Expert Discusses Salmonella Poisoning and How to Prevent Contamination, Especially When Grilling

Release Date: August 5, 2011

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Individuals with specific diseases or taking specific drugs are more at risk from salmonella poisoning, says UB infectious disease expert Thomas Russo.

BUFFALO, N. Y. -- In light of the recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey due to reports of salmonella poisoning in 26 states including New York, a University at Buffalo infectious disease expert offers some useful advice, including tips for those contemplating an outdoor barbecue this weekend.

"In most individuals who are healthy, the illness that salmonella causes will be self-limiting, meaning it will resolve on its own without any treatment," says Thomas A. Russo, MD, professor in the Department of Medicine at the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and head of the department's Infectious Disease Division. "If you are healthy and you become sick from salmonella, you will experience diarrhea, you may run a low-grade fever and you may feel lethargic for a few days but you will improve fairly quickly without any lasting effects."

However, he cautions, people whose immune systems are compromised for very specific reasons, can become much sicker from salmonella poisoning.

"Anyone who is taking steroids, individuals on certain cancer chemotherapies, transplant recipients on immunosuppressive drugs, those with sickle-cell disease, anyone infected with HIV/AIDS, people with certain rheumatologic conditions that are on biologic modulates such as TNF-alpha inhibitors as well as newborns and those older than 70 years old would be at increased risk and should take extra precautions not to become infected by salmonella," Russo says.

He says that there are some easy, surefire ways to avoid contamination especially for anyone who grills ground beef or turkey:

"If someone is grilling turkey or beef burgers, they'll often make the raw patty, bring it out to the grill on a plate, grill it, and then slap it on the same plate once it's cooked," Russo says.

"Since it's often the guys in the family who are doing the grillwork, this message is for them: put the cooked patties on a clean plate, otherwise you run the risk of contaminating the cooked burgers," he says.

Russo adds that any time someone is making patties out of raw meat, they also need to wash their hands well and any surfaces they have touched. The best way to wash down kitchen surfaces, he says, is with a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach with one gallon of water.

He adds that if the ground turkey is cooked to 160-165 F, which should result in the juices "running clear" and no pink meat, then the infectious risk should be eliminated.

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Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
News Content Manager
Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @UBmednews