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Handwashing critical to avoid infecting children
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Parents should wash their hands thoroughly before feeding toddlers, doctors at Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital said after a 10-day-old infant became critically ill due to salmonella infection.

The hospital recently admitted three cases of infants less than one year old who had serious salmonella gastroenteritis, with the youngest — 10 days old — developing serious complications, including necrotizing enterocolitis, gastrointestinal perforation, peritonitis and septicemia.

Salmonellosis is most common between July and October, and it is usually caused by eating raw or undercooked food, or drinking contaminated water, hospital deputy superintendent Chiu Cheng-hsun (邱政洵) said.

Most people with salmonellosis suffer acute gastroenteritis, and children younger than five, especially infants less than one year old, are the most susceptible to salmonella infection, he said.

Common symptoms of salmonellosis include a fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, abdominal cramps and diarrhea six to 72 hours after infection, he said, adding that some might have mucus or blood in their stool.

Healthy adults or older children can usually recover on their own without seeking medical attention, but toddlers, elderly people or people with weak immune systems might suffer serious complications, including pneumonia, septicemia, osteomyelitis, meningitis and gastrointestinal perforation, which could be fatal if left untreated or if treatment is delayed, he said.

Chickens, ducks and other poultry might have salmonella in their bodies, so people might be infected from eating raw or undercooked eggs, Chiu said.

A three-year study by the hospital’s researchers on salmonellosis cases in the nation showed that they were mainly caused by undercooked pork and chicken meat, and were directly or indirectly transmitted to humans.

As infants’ main nutrition comes from breastmilk or formula milk, the study suggests that salmonella was likely passed on by parents who did not thoroughly wash their hands after handling raw meat, or did not have separate cutting boards and knives for meat and fruit or vegetables, Chiu said.

Parents should wash their hands thoroughly, especially before preparing food or feeding toddlers, to prevent salmonellosis in children, physicians Lee Chien-chung (李建忠) and Tsai An-li (蔡安黎) said.

They also suggested preparing or storing meat in the refrigerator right after reaching home; using separate cutting boards and knives for raw and cooked food; cooking eggs and meat thoroughly; not drinking unsterilized water; and seeking immediate medical attention if a toddler has a fever, diarrhea or vomits.

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