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Wednesday evening, as I waited for my wife to pick me up school, I sat eating chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant I often frequent. It's a hole in the wall place with legit Jalisco style Mexican food, run by a local family well known to the community. I have eaten here more times than I can count and consider the place to be one of the best Mexican places in the city. The prices are low, the food is delicious and the salsa is made just how I like it.

After a while I got a call from Mrs. bastrop saying she was running late and I was looking at more than an hour wait time. It was pushing 5:30 and I decided to go ahead and have my dinner.

This turned out to be a mistake. By 6 Thursday morning I had sweated out the bed, suffering extreme chills and eventually incredible abdominal cramping. I don't need to tell you what comes next. Needless to say, the last two days have been awful.

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Now here I am at home in bed, just now feeling human as we approach 1 pm central time on Friday. I have slept more in the last 36 hours than I have in the last month, it seems. My appetite has not returned and likely won't until tomorrow or even the next day. I am out of the woods but my body has been abused and it will surely be a few more days before I am really back to normal.

I've had food poisoning before. Probably my worst experience occurred from eating grapes in the back of a bedouin cab in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. I thought I would surely die that time, and it was my fault. I can still see the bedouin man turning around in his seat and offering them to us, weary and hot after a march through the desert in June. I knew as I reached for them it was a mistake, my driver's gold tooth glimmering in the night as he smiled back at me. "Good! They are good! Eat!" he said. And I did.

So, what exactly is food poisoning and how can we avoid coming down with it? Let's see what the NIH has to say about it:

Food poisoning occurs when you swallow food or water that contains bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins made by these germs. Most cases are caused by common bacteria such as Staphylococcus or E. coli.

Causes
Food poisoning can affect one person or a group of people who all ate the same contaminated food. It is more common happens after eating at picnics, school cafeterias, large social functions, or restaurants.

The germs may get into the food you eat (called contamination) in different ways:

Meat or poultry can come into contact with bacteria from the intestines of an animal that is being processed.
Water that is used during growing or shipping can contain animal or human waste.
Food may be handled in an unsafe way during preparation in grocery stores, restaurants, or homes.
Food poisoning can occur after eating or drinking:
Any food prepared by someone who does not wash their hands properly
Any food prepared using cooking utensils, cutting boards, and other tools that are not fully cleaned
Dairy products or food containing mayonnaise (such as coleslaw or potato salad) that have been out of the refrigerator too long
Frozen or refrigerated foods that are not stored at the proper temperature or are not reheated the right amount
Raw fish or oysters
Raw fruits or vegetables that have not been washed well
Raw vegetables or fruit juices and dairy products (look for the word "pasteurized," which means the food has been treated to prevent contamination)
Undercooked meats or eggs
Water from a well or stream, or city or town water that has not been treated
Many types of germs may cause food poisoning, including:
Campylobacter enteritis
Cholera
E. coli enteritis
Fish poisoning
Staphylococcus aureus
Salmonella
Shigella
Infants and elderly people are at the greatest risk for food poisoning. You are also at higher risk if:
You have a serious medical condition, such as kidney disease or diabetes.
You have a weakened immune system.
You travel outside of the United States to areas where you are exposed to germs that cause food poisoning.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should use extra care to avoid food poisoning.
And then there are the symptoms:
Symptoms from the most common types of food poisoning usually start within 2 - 6 hours of eating the food. That time may be longer or shorter, depending on the cause of the food poisoning.

Possible symptoms include:

Abdominal cramps
Diarrhea (may be bloody)
Fever and chills
Headache
Nausea and vomiting
Weakness (may be serious)

And from Wikipedia:
Foodborne illness usually arises from improper handling, preparation, or food storage. Good hygiene practices before, during, and after food preparation can reduce the chances of contracting an illness. There is a consensus in the public health community that regular hand-washing is one of the most effective defenses against the spread of foodborne illness. The action of monitoring food to ensure that it will not cause foodborne illness is known as food safety.
All of this begs the question, largely unanswerable as it is, what cause my food poisoning? Now real way to tell short of culturing the, ahem, results. I didn't go to the doctor. Didn't have the energy to get out of bed let alone get in a car. Here is Wikipedia's list of likely bacterial culprits:
Bacteria are a common cause of foodborne illness. In the United Kingdom during 2000, the individual bacteria involved were the following: Campylobacter jejuni 77.3%, Salmonella 20.9%, Escherichia coli O157:H7 1.4%, and all others less than 0.56%.[3]

In the past, bacterial infections were thought to be more prevalent because few places had the capability to test for norovirus and no active surveillance was being done for this particular agent. Toxins from bacterial infections are delayed because the bacteria need time to multiply. As a result symptoms associated with intoxication are usually not seen until 12–72 hours or more after eating contaminated food.

Usually the symptoms are seen the day after the food has been ingested and digested completely. However if the intoxication involves preformed toxins as is the case with Staphylococcal food poisoning, the symptoms appear within a few hours.[citation needed]

Most common bacterial foodborne pathogens are:
Campylobacter jejuni which can lead to secondary Guillain–Barré syndrome and periodontitis[4]
Clostridium perfringens, the "cafeteria germ"[5]
Salmonella spp. – its S. typhimurium infection is caused by consumption of eggs or poultry that are not adequately cooked or by other interactive human-animal pathogens[6][7][8]
Salmonella
Escherichia coli O157:H7 enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) which can cause hemolytic-uremic syndrome
Other common bacterial foodborne pathogens are:
Bacillus cereus
Escherichia coli, other virulence properties, such as enteroinvasive (EIEC), enteropathogenic (EPEC), enterotoxigenic (ETEC), enteroaggregative (EAEC or EAgEC)
Listeria monocytogenes
Shigella spp.
Staphylococcus aureus
Staphylococcal enteritis
Streptococcus
Vibrio cholerae, including O1 and non-O1
Vibrio parahaemolyticus
Vibrio vulnificus
Yersinia enterocolitica and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis

Whatever the germ, I am surely glad it is over. Will I be going back for more tacos al pastor? Probably not, and that's a shame because I really like the place a lot, but I don't see myself being able to disassociate the memory of the last two days from their enticing menu.

With that I will open the floor to Friday night Kibitzing. Hope you all had a better end to your week than I did. Happy Friday, everyone!


Kitchen Table Kibitzing is a community series for those who wish to share part of the evening around a virtual kitchen table with kossacks who are caring and supportive of one another. So bring your stories, jokes, photos, funny pics, music, and interesting videos, as well as links—including quotations—to diaries, news stories, and books that you think this community would appreciate. Readers may notice that most who post diaries and comments in this series already know one another to some degree, but newcomers should not feel excluded. We welcome guests at our kitchen table, and hope to make some new friends as well.

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