Amy Schumer Goes to Paris- and Gets Food Poisoning!

Actress/comedian Amy Schumer went to Paris with boyfriend, Ben Hanisch, for a little romance. But what she got was quite something else- namely food poisoning.

Schumer posted a picture on Instagram of herself and Ben laid out on a bed with the caption:

Thanks for everything Paris! Except the food poisoning. #nooooooooooo #balmain #nyfw”

amy-schumer-sick

A few hours later, she posted a picture of herself in an emergency room, getting IV fluids, presumably for dehydration due to excessive vomiting.

But true to form, Amy didn’t let a little food poisoning stop her from making a few jokes, posting a “internet dating video” while dressed in her hospital gown, with the caption, “Pretty fired up to meet someone .”

What is food poisoning and what causes it?

Food poisoning, medically called a foodborne illness, is an infection or irritation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract caused by food or beverages that contain harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, or chemicals. Common symptoms of foodborne illnesses include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and chills.

Most foodborne illnesses are acute, meaning they happen suddenly and last a short time, and most people recover on their own without treatment. Rarely, foodborne illnesses may lead to more serious complications. Each year, an estimated 48 million people in the United States experience a foodborne illness. Foodborne illnesses cause about 3,000 deaths in the United States annually.

The majority of foodborne illnesses are caused by harmful bacteria and viruses.

Bacteria

Bacteria are tiny organisms that can cause infections of the GI tract. Not all bacteria are harmful to humans.

Some harmful bacteria may already be present in foods when they are purchased. Raw foods including meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, eggs, unpasteurized milk and dairy products, and fresh produce often contain bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. Bacteria can contaminate food—making it harmful to eat—at any time during growth, harvesting or slaughter, processing, storage, and shipping.

Foods may also be contaminated with bacteria during food preparation in a restaurant or home kitchen. If food preparers do not thoroughly wash their hands, kitchen utensils, cutting boards, and other kitchen surfaces that come into contact with raw foods, cross-contamination—the spread of bacteria from contaminated food to uncontaminated food—may occur.

If hot food is not kept hot enough or cold food is not kept cold enough, bacteria may multiply. Bacteria multiply quickly when the temperature of food is between 40 and 140 degrees. Cold food should be kept below 40 degrees and hot food should be kept above 140 degrees. Bacteria multiply more slowly when food is refrigerated, and freezing food can further slow or even stop the spread of bacteria. However, bacteria in refrigerated or frozen foods become active again when food is brought to room temperature. Thoroughly cooking food kills bacteria.

Many types of bacteria cause foodborne illnesses. Examples include

  • Salmonella, a bacterium found in many foods, including raw and undercooked meat, poultry, dairy products, and seafood. Salmonella may also be present on egg shells and inside eggs.
  • Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni), found in raw or undercooked chicken and unpasteurized milk.
  • Shigella, a bacterium spread from person to person. These bacteria are present in the stools of people who are infected. If people who are infected do not wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, they can contaminate food that they handle or prepare. Water contaminated with infected stools can also contaminate produce in the field.
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli), which includes several different strains, only a few of which cause illness in humans. E. coli O157:H7 is the strain that causes the most severe illness. Common sources of E. coli include raw or undercooked hamburger, unpasteurized fruit juices and milk, and fresh produce.
  • Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes), which has been found in raw and undercooked meats, unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses, and ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs.
  • Vibrio, a bacterium that may contaminate fish or shellfish.
  • Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum), a bacterium that may contaminate improperly canned foods and smoked and salted fish.

Viruses

Viruses are tiny capsules, much smaller than bacteria, that contain genetic material. Viruses cause infections that can lead to sickness. People can pass viruses to each other. Viruses are present in the stool or vomit of people who are infected. People who are infected with a virus may contaminate food and drinks, especially if they do not wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom.

Common sources of foodborne viruses include

  • food prepared by a person infected with a virus
  • shellfish from contaminated water
  • produce irrigated with contaminated water

Common foodborne viruses include

  • norovirus, which causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines
  • hepatitis A, which causes inflammation of the liver

What are the symptoms of foodborne illnesses?

Symptoms of foodborne illnesses depend on the cause. Common symptoms of many foodborne illnesses include

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea or bloody diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • fever
  • chills

Symptoms can range from mild to serious and can last from a few hours to several days.

What are the complications of foodborne illnesses?

Foodborne illnesses may lead to dehydration, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and other complications. Acute foodborne illnesses may also lead to chronic—or long lasting—health problems.

Dehydration

When someone does not drink enough fluids to replace those that are lost through vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration can result. When dehydrated, the body lacks enough fluid and electrolytes—minerals in salts, including sodium, potassium, and chloride—to function properly. Infants, children, older adults, and people with weak immune systems have the greatest risk of becoming dehydrated.

Signs of dehydration are

  • excessive thirst
  • infrequent urination
  • dark-colored urine
  • lethargy, dizziness, or faintness

Signs of dehydration in infants and young children are

  • dry mouth and tongue
  • lack of tears when crying
  • no wet diapers for 3 hours or more
  • high fever
  • unusually cranky or drowsy behavior
  • sunken eyes, cheeks, or soft spot in the skull

Also, when people are dehydrated, their skin does not flatten back to normal right away after being gently pinched and released.

Severe dehydration may require intravenous fluids and hospitalization. Untreated severe dehydration can cause serious health problems such as organ damage, shock, or coma—a sleeplike state in which a person is not conscious.

HUS

Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a rare disease that mostly affects children younger than 10 years of age. HUS develops when E. coli bacteria lodged in the digestive tract make toxins that enter the bloodstream. The toxins start to destroy red blood cells, which help the blood to clot, and the lining of the blood vessels.

In the United States, E. coli O157:H7 infection is the most common cause of HUS, but infection with other strains of E. coli, other bacteria, and viruses may also cause HUS. A recent study found that about 6 percent of people with E. coli O157:H7 infections developed HUS. Children younger than age 5 have the highest risk, but females and people age 60 and older also have increased risk.

Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection include diarrhea, which may be bloody, and abdominal pain, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and fever. Up to a week after E. coli symptoms appear, symptoms of HUS may develop, including irritability, paleness, and decreased urination. HUS may lead to acute renal failure, which is a sudden and temporary loss of kidney function. HUS may also affect other organs and the central nervous system. Most people who develop HUS recover with treatment.

When should people with foodborne illnesses see a health care provider?

People with any of the following symptoms should see a health care provider immediately:

  • signs of dehydration
  • prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down
  • diarrhea for more than 2 days in adults or for more than 24 hours in children
  • severe pain in the abdomen or rectum
  • a fever higher than 101 degrees
  • stools containing blood or pus
  • stools that are black and tarry
  • nervous system symptoms
  • signs of HUS

Source: The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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