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Do you know food poisoning symptoms?

By Lindsey Elliott | K-STATE MEDIA RELATIONS | July 01, 2014

MANHATTAN — Most people have probably heard of norovirus, salmonella and E. coli, but would they know if they were sick with one of these foodborne illnesses? A Kansas State University food safety specialist said there are distinct symptoms for food poisoning and reporting them to a doctor is an important step in improving food safety.

“We really want to reduce the number of foodborne illness outbreaks,” said Karen Blakeslee, extension specialist in food science and coordinator, Rapid Response Center. “It’s important to understand foodborne illness and its symptoms because the whole topic of foodborne illness is really under-reported.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19,056 cases of infection were reported in 2013. However, Blakeslee said many people don’t report getting sick from contaminated food because they don’t realize they have food poisoning. Symptoms of a foodborne illness are similar to those with other illnesses, such as vomiting, diarrhea, headache and fever, but there are some distinct symptoms of foodborne illness.

“Symptoms like double vision, dizziness, lethargy and dehydration are all symptoms specific to a foodborne illness,” Blakeslee said.

It takes two or more people with similar symptoms to be considered a foodborne illness outbreak. Blakeslee said another challenge with decreasing the number of outbreaks is trying to determine the food that was contaminated.

“It’s not necessarily what you ate that day or the day before,” she said. “Some of the symptoms for the different kinds of bacteria may take up to a couple of weeks to occur, so that’s why it makes it really hard to identify the cause of the outbreak.”

Anyone who suspects they have food poisoning, Blakeslee said, should see a doctor or call a local health department.