Food Poisoning:

List of Long-Term Complications

Aside from common symptoms, those with a food-related illness can develop more severe complications; those at the greatest risk for developing complications are children, elderly persons, and those with immune systems that are already compromised (such as those suffering from HIV and AIDS). Healthy persons, however, are not immune to complications, which develop due to certain strains of bacteria. Some complications which develop from food-related illnesses include:

Guillain-Barré Syndrome: This rare disorder is marked by weakness culminating in temporary paralysis caused by attacks on the peripheral nervous system by the immune system. The infection, typically caused by Campylobacter, triggers this action and it usually become evident within a few weeks following the illness. Immediate treatment, in most cases, leads to a full recovery. It occurs in about 1 out of every 1000 cases.

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS): This can follow E. coli O157:H7 infections and results in the destruction of red blood cells, damage to the lining of blood vessel walls, and can even cause kidney failure. This complication develops in 2%-7% of cases and is the leading cause of acute kidney failure in children. Furthermore, about 33% of those who contract HUS develop abnormal kidney function later in life, some even needing long-term dialysis. Another 8% of HUS patients struggle with other complications later in life, including high blood pressure, seizures, blindness, paralysis, and the problems resulting from having a portion of their bowel removed. Even with intensive care, 3%-5% of HUS patients die because of it.

Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP): Adult HUS is sometimes called TTP because of their similar medical features. TTP causes low blood platelet counts, anemia, and in some cases, kidney failure.

Reiter’s Syndrome: A possible complication of Salmonella, Reiter’s Syndrome is also called reactive arthritis. Symptoms, which occur between 1-3 weeks following the infection, include pain in the joints (particularly fingers, toes, ankles, knees and hips), irritation of the eyes (conjunctivitis), and painful urination. Most recover in less than 1 year, but in some this can lead to chronic arthritis. It should be noted that other foodborne illness which cause gastroenteritis, such as Campylobacter and Shigella, may also cause Reiter’s Syndrome.

Another complication which can be quite serious, especially in cases of Shigella, is severe dehydration. Systemic infections can also result (this is when the bacteria spreads and enters the bloodstream). Finally, Hepatitis A results in prolonged or relapsing symptoms (over a 6-9 month period) in about 15% of those infected.