Bacteria, Viruses, and Protists

Virus Basics

What’s the difference between food infection and food poisoning?

The term food poisoning is actually a catch-all term and is usually considered to be synonymous with “food-borne illness.” The term is broken down into food infection and food intoxication and with either one, you will have similar symptoms. With a food infection, a microorganism (most often a virus or bacteria, such as Salmonella) grows inside your body and becomes the source of your symptoms. With food intoxication, a chemical or natural toxin (often a by-product of the microorganism present in the food, such as Staphylococcus aureus; it’s known as an exotoxin) causes you to be sick—and most bacterial food poisonings are actually food infections. Both can cause many identical symptoms—headaches, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea, dehydration—which is why it’s so hard for a doctor to determine just which one you are experiencing.


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