While people were out celebrating Valentine’s Day with their loved ones last year, fourth-year CSUF business major Stephanie Vega was home sick with food poisoning. Vega had all the common symptoms of the illness: nausea, vomiting and frequent urination.
Vega said she believes she got sick after eating a chicken wrap from a local restaurant.
“I went to work. While I was at work I didn’t feel well and driving back home I started feeling the symptoms,” Vega said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people get sick with food poisoning each year in the United States.
The CDC is currently working to control an outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona. As of May 2, the CDC reported 121 people have been infected across 25 states and one person in California has died. E. coli is just one type of bacteria that can contaminate food and make a person sick, and is usually transmitted through feces.
Food poisoning can also be caused by consuming contaminated food or beverages that contain harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites.
The most commonly reported foodborne illnesses in Orange County are caused by three bacterias: salmonella, campylobacteriosis and shigellosis, according to Joshua Jacobs, program manager of Epidemiology and Assessment for the Orange County Health Care Agency.
In 2017, the OC Health Care Agency received 366 reported cases of salmonella, 544 of campylobacteriosis and 96 reported cases of shigellosis.
It may take hours or days to feel any potential symptoms of a foodborne illness, according to the CDC.
“People often think it was the food they just ate, and not something that may have been up to a couple days ago. Food poisoning is complicated, as it is dependent on the pathogen, amount of exposure and health status of the individual,” said Julie Eversaul, adjunct CSUF health professor, in an email.
Steven White, a fourth-year public relations major, said he believes he got food poisoning after eating contaminated chicken tenders at a work cafeteria a few years ago.
“It was five days in a row where I couldn’t leave the bathroom. I had to go to urgent care because I thought was going to die,” White said. “I legitimately thought it was something way worse.”
White said he did not think of reporting his incident because he did not know how to, and feared retribution at work. Vega said she thought about reporting her incident, but also didn’t know how.
It can be difficult to address an outbreak if local health officials and the CDC are unaware of an outbreak, Eversaul said in an email.
People can report a foodborne illness to the OC Health Care Agency through a confidential online survey. According to the CDC, it takes two or more people with similar symptoms for an illness to be considered a foodborne outbreak. Reports to the CDC or local health agencies help public health officials investigate outbreaks.