How Long Can Salmonella Live on Surfaces?

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Salmonella can live on a dry surface for many months; however, they can live longer in humid or low temperature conditions. There is disagreement on whether they live longer on different surfaces, but a survival advantage on plastic or steel is possible.

Salmonella is closely related to the Escherichia family of germs which includes E. coli. Salmonella can be found around the world in both warm and cold-blooded animals and can cause typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever and food poisoning. It reproduces asexually with a cell division rate of 20 to 40 minutes. The bacteria cannot be killed by freezing and to protect against infection, heating food to 75 degrees Celsius or 167 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 10 minutes is recommended so that there is enough time for the high temperature to reach the center of the food.

Common foods that can be contaminated with salmonella include eggs, poultry, meat, cheese, unpasteurized milk and juice, alfalfa sprouts and melons. It can also be found in reptiles, frogs, birds and pet foods or treats. It takes 12 to 72 hours for the bacteria to incubate and the symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal cramps can last 4 to 7 days, according to FoodSafety. If contracted, drink lots of fluids when possible, and if symptoms are severe or water cannot be kept down, contact a doctor.