If you've ever come down with a bad case of food poisoning, take note. The germs that caused it may affect you long after you supposedly recovered -- in some cases, for years.
In Scientific American's April issue, Maryn McKenna tells the story of 14-year-old Dana Dziadul, who for more than a decade suffered from chronic joint pain. Doctors ultimately determined it was arthritis, caused by a bout of salmonella poisoning Dziadul had contracted more than a decade earlier.
Long-term consequences are not limited to individuals who were hospitalized, as Dana was. They have also been recorded in people who experienced what seemed to be minor bouts of fever, vomiting or diarrhea. The consequences include reactive arthritis, urinary tract problems and damage to the eyes after Salmonella and Shigella infections; Guillain-Barré syndrome and ulcerative colitis (a chronic bowel inflammation) after Campylobacter infection; and kidney failure and diabetes after infection with Escherichia coli O157:H7. Those organisms are very common: federal investigators have identified them in meat, milk, poultry, eggs, seafood, fruit, vegetables and even processed foods.
Although there exist some comprehensive studies that prove the connection between food poisoning and health problems years later, few have been conducted in the U.S., mainly because little attention is often paid to patients after the most serious symptoms of the illness pass.
It's something to keep in mind as food poisoning from imported products seems to be on the rise, according to a recent report from the Center for Disease Control. Imported foods were tied to 38 major outbreaks of food poisoning between 2005 and 2010, which resulted in 2,348 cases of sickened people. Seventeen of those cases -- nearly 45 percent -- took place at the end of that period, between 2009 and 2010.
Just this week, The Associated Press reported that spicy tuna rolls are the suspected culprits behind the sickening of 90 people in 19 states and the District of Columbia.